The metallurgist forging the sword on the cover to Zephaniah’s second album, Reforged, alludes to the brute force waiting to be unleashed from within the confines of a compact disc. The word “forged” itself means that something is being made with the utmost care and concentration, particularly by beating it into shape, and preferably with a sledge. As it applies to Zephaniah, this definition manifests in their music by pounding their listeners into submission with their Manowar-inspired progressive power metal. And much like a sword, Reforged is a powerful weapon against everyday villains we all face.
The self-titled opener is a stately re-introduction to the band after a six-year hiatus, and finds the five-piece more skilled and melodic than ever before. From this auspicious beginning, it is apparent that the production throughout the album boasts a more professional attack and is, as a result, more powerful in its impact. For over an hour, every member’s contribution to the whole statement can be easily discerned, and the whole purpose aims to force the band’s musical prowess front and center.
The triptych of songs dedicated to the Mad Max series – one for the namesake film, “Road Warrior” and “Thunderdome” – are well-endowed tributes to the cult films. Appearing early on in Reforged, these three tracks showcase technically proficient performances from guitarists Justin Zych and Shaun Cothron, who deserve mention for their imaginative and harrowingly paced melodies that accompany the lyrics from vocalist Logan Detwiler. Of course, they wouldn’t quite have the same impact were it not for the rhythm section of Ian Bender on bass and Cody Johns drums providing the much needed gravity for the otherwise sky-rocketing guitarists.
Perhaps the most exciting aspect listening to Reforged is the same thing that will prevent non-metal heads from giving this album a listen out of curiosity: there is a certain thrill in wondering exactly when the pressure of the music’s blistering pace will finally cause its craftsmen to buckle. Given power metal’s implications, listening intently to an album like this can be an endurance contest in which metalheads already challenge themselves to see if they can withstand the energy bursting out of the speakers. Additionally, the progressive nature of the song structures (particularly “Quest for the Royal Crown”) inevitably makes the listener wonder how the band can keep track of the sheer number of riffs and ideas in each song.
Overwhelming as the scale of Reforged can seem, it certainly does its job in separating those who claim they like metal from those who actually love it and live it. You’ll notice that I consciously avoided using the word “epic” to describe Zephaniah and their staggering songs because given everything this band strives to accomplish, “epic” is just redundant when it comes to describing just what Zephaniah really strive for: total sonic annihilation.
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March 21 • The Clyde