Zeno! This German band got its name from their guitarist and principal songwriter “Zeno” Roth (brother to Uli Jon Roth). Zeno released but one album in the 1980s, Zeno (EMI Records).
This is one of those Sunday morning albums. Obviously, life demands that ’80s hard rock and metal must be played 24/7, but there are times when serenity and tranquility reign over fist-pumping and head banging. When I need something a little lighter, a little more AOR-ish, my ears beg for Zeno, one of the most majestic and ethereal records of the whole decade.
Although Zeno was not a hit album by any means, a little investigation into the album’s back story reveals that the music industry expected great things from Zeno. Zeno were the subject of a bidding war amongst labels, and in the end Zeno wound up receiving one of the biggest contracts ever for a brand new band. But the story gets convoluted, with Zeno taking longer than expected to record and going over budget in the process. When Zeno was released in 1986, it was viewed as something of a failure with respect to its over-hyped expectations.
The production on Zeno is pin-perfect. It’s obvious that meticulous attention was paid to capturing a full, rich sound on this record (more than likely the reason Zeno was over-budget). Roth’s guitar work is exceptional, and his compositions seem to mirror his own reputation as a spiritual and philosophical guy. The vocals are done by Michael Flexig, a man who sings in an impossibly high register and has the pipes to give credence to these celestial and uber-melodic pieces. The lyrics are very positive; focusing mostly on love, spirit, and the belief in a higher power. People, Slayer this ain’t.
Zeno consists of ten proper songs (and one brief instrumental, Sunset). I would describe nine of the cuts as exceptional or nearly so. The only song I don’t love is Emergency. Exquisite cuts like Heart On The Wing, A Little More Love (penned by bassist U. Winsomie Ritgen), and Circles Of Dawn always bring a cheerful smile to my otherwise hideously ugly mug. A truly great album that flew under the radar. My score: A+