There have been several books written about the history of heavy metal and rock music in general, but I can't think of one book that completely encompasses everything that should go into the true story of metal. If there is such a book in existence, it seems as if Fort Wayne's own Zephaniah have found it and are reading from it.
The band's debut album, Stories from the Book of Metal, is unlike anything I have heard from any other area band. Forging a unique path through Northeast Indiana's musical forest with a tip of their collective hat to power-metal heavyweights like Helloween, Iced Earth and Hammerfall, not to mention a nod to the kings of all metal, Manowar Zephaniah play a brand of music that has failed to reach a large audience in the U.S., although it is tremendously popular throughout Europe. If Dragonforce are a band you like, or at least have heard about from their days on the Ozzfest tour, then you have an idea of what Zephaniah are all about.
In case you haven't figured it out already, Zephaniah aren't writing love songs. Well, that's not entirely true; they wrote one love song, the catchy "Fight For Love," but mostly Zephaniah write poetic battle songs. There is the Iron Maiden-like "Antietam," a song about the American Civil War. There's a song about the true test of courage in "Avenger of Souls," while "Sword of the King" is about fighting a tyrannous dictator, and "The Lone Warrior" is about, well, being a lone warrior. Even the pirate tale of "Blackbeard's Revenge" and the medieval-themed story of "Flame of the Dragon" fit in nicely with the battle-themed subject matter.
While the epic storytelling on this disc keeps your attention and makes the CD well worth several listens, it is the musicianship displayed by the members of Zephaniah throughout Stories From the Book of Metal that really catches your attention. Bassist Tyler Sumwalt and drummer Ian Bender play their instruments as if their lives depend on it, leading the charge as the band powers its way through the metal battlefield, while vocalist Logan Detwiler adds that bit of vocal prowess that all power metal bands need.
But the stars of this CD are the twin guitars of Justin Zych and Tyson Miller, a couple of guys who tear through songs with the musical prowess of guitarists many times their senior. Classically influenced guitar solos mixed with NWOBHM-inspired riffs are played with great ease, leading me to believe that these guys are probably some of the most talented guitarists in the area. Â
Recorded at Dark Shift guitarist Joel Wasanek's JTW Studios near Milwaukee, Zephaniah went all out on the production as well. Sound quality wise, this album is as good as any "local" release of recent memory. The care and expense that must have gone into this recording solidifies the idea that Zephaniah are serious about their music and about making an impact on the local scene.
Power metal in Fort Wayne? That's a strange concept, but a concept that is overdue, and this nine-song opus is nothing short of amazing, especially for a debut album. Great songs, great production and, best of all, something original–a rare find these days. Whether you are a fan of metal music or not, if you like well written songs and great musicianship then the 54 minutes of Stories From the Book of Metal are sure to please.