Watchtower have a pretty legendary legacy among a niche group of metalheads. To just call their music “thrash metal” and move on is a disservice to both Watchtower and thrash metal. So what do you call it? Progressive thrash? Thrashy progressive metal? Heavy metal was already genre-bending in the ’80s, and that’s part of the fun of bands like this – Voivod were the weirdo alien forebears, but to my ears this is right in the pile with Atheist and Toxik as the vanguard of bands pushing the heavy metal genre forward and not caring if the Neanderthal metalheads liked it or not.
So it’s odd to be reviewing a Watchtower release. Because the whole time I’ve been into heavy metal, Watchtower was always this cool band to like, but had been long defunct. They broke up almost as quickly as they came about, only putting out two albums in the mid and late 1980s. They’ve had a couple reunions, but nothing that produced any new music. So here we have a new EP from Watchtower, and it’s kind of come under the radar. No matter – let’s look into the music.
The ambitious nature of this music can make it difficult to . Not much is straightforward like you get with the “traditional” type of thrash metal. It’s disjointed, uber-technical, and holy shit you can hear the bass! Plus Ron Jarzombek is all over the place on his guitar and I’m happy to say right off here that is still the case. From the first few seconds of this EP it is clear to anyone that likes Watchtower that this is the same old band just with modern progression.
I just wonder if the millennials that are growing up with tech death and djent music can even have an ear to appreciate this. I hope they can. This is a classic band proving they still have what it takes to re-establish themselves in the genre they helped create. My fear is that the clean vocal approach is outdated to younger listeners. Alan Tecchio still retains his fantastic vocal range, even having that high pitched screech so associated with pre-death metal vocalists. When he screeches “T-t-technology in-AAAACTION!” it brings a wry smile to my face. With how amazing the guitar work is on this EP, how crazily complicated some of these drum patterns are, it’s almost refreshing to hear the clean, traditional metal vocal approach, rather than some generic dude barking death growls over pure technical mastery.
All the elements are there for a solid Watchtower release. But as I said at the beginning, this might have a very niche audience. It’s got the weird disjointed riffing style, dramatic classic metal vocals, pseudo-scientific lyrical themes, check check check check. So for the casual listener, this could prove to be a challenging listen. There’s a lot going on and it’s not completely straightforward. But if you can appreciate what Vektor and their godfathers the masters in Voivod are doing, this right here will be a nice addition to the collection.