Zero Verdict are a progressive rock/metal band hailing from Finland featuring former members of Machina, King’s Ruin and Vermivore. Their sound is a mixture of progressive rock influences like Rush and Dream Theater but with the heavier guitar sound of, say, Avenged Sevenfold. The exceptionally high level of musical ability is the first thing that becomes apparent on Clarity, their first E.P., though there is not the slightest trace of self-indulgence as is often the case with highly proficient musicians.
The opening song, The Perfect White Lie, begins with an exciting, wiry guitar riff that hooks the listener straight away. The song pulls off the neat trick of effortlessly juggling complex time signatures whilst remaining accessible to the average listener. This is due to the highly anthemic chorus, aided by the powerful vocals of Sami Huotari. Many rock bands have excellent musicianship but are let down by their vocals, this is not the case at all with Zero Verdict. Despite the rhythmic complexity, the catchy chorus hook ensures instant appeal, and this memorable song is the obvious single and leading track.
The songwriting, by guitarist Tapio Mattila, (who also wrote the next two tracks) is first class, with a verse/bridge that builds to the epic chorus with consummate craft. A taut, perfectly constructed guitar solo is another highlight. Most progressive rock bands find a limited audience, but Zero Verdict keep their prog tendencies in check and it succeeds as simply a heavy rock/pop song, as commercial and potentially popular as a band like Evanescence, and they should not be ashamed of that. A band like Rush have shown you can have your progressive rock cake and eat it!
Next track Alone is also strong, beginning with a lilting guitar riff in 6/8, the song building into a slow epic that is lengthy but never dull for a second. This track also features a memorable chorus and is much higher quality than you’d expect for a second track on an E.P. Most bands usually have one strong lead-off song and three filler tracks.
Third song Lost In a Haze is seven and a half minutes long and features several time-signature changes like the first track, all achieved in a way that doesn’t interrupt the flow of the music. Another fine piece of composition, this one is notable for an incredible passage of duel-guitar interplay that would put Dragonforce to shame.
Unusually, the title track of the E.P. is placed last and begins with a gentle, plucked acoustic guitar. It gradually builds into another colossal epic, with perhaps the most anthemic, singalong chorus here. It also features some effectively atmospheric keyboards by non-band member Jukka Tappola. This is their ‘lighters-in-the-air’ rock ballad and provides an excellent finale to one of the best E.P.s I’ve heard either as a music listener or reviewer.
From the songwriting, to the musicianship, singing and production, there is nothing here that is not of the highest quality. If there’s any justice, Zero Verdict will become as massive as their sound.