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WATCHTOWER

Tech/Extreme Prog Metal • United States


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Watchtower biography
US Progressive Technical Metal band WATCHTOWER started their Metal journey back in 1982. They had began mainly as a cover band but soon started writing their own material. In 1983 they were approached by Rainforest Records to release an album but that never materialized because the label went under. Their line-up consisting of vocals: Jason McMaster (DANGEROUS TOYS); guitar: Billy White; bass: Doug Keyser; drums: Rick Colacula released their first album "Energetic Disassembly".

Around 86 one of the founding members and main songwriter, Billy White left the band and was replaced by Ron Jarzombek (S.A. SLAYER, SPASTIK INK). They continued to play live despite the future not being certain. In 1987 Jason was asked to be guest vocalist for DANGEROUS TOYS to which he said yes. Eventually they got signed to Columbia Records and he decided to go with them full time.

To fill the vacant vocalist spot the band recruited a friend of theirs, Mike Soliz (MILITIA, ASSALANT) in 1988. He recorded only one song with them (featured on the Noise Records compilation Doomsday News 2) before being replaced by HADES wailer Alan Tecchio. 1989 saw the release of WATCHTOWER´s second album "Control And Resistance". A year later Alan left the band to join NON FICTION and that was pretty much the end. Or was it ?

The band reunited around 2000 and have since been working on some new material as well as released a compilation on Monster Records. I don´t know if that new album, currently entitled "Mathamatics" will see the light of day soon as the band themselves don´t even know. Time will tell.

Fans of Progressive Rock/Techical Metal like SPIRAL ARCHITECT, BEHOLD THE ARCTOPUS, FATES WARNING, HAJI'S KITCHEN, DALIS DILEMMA etc. WATCHTOWER is a highly recommended.

: : : Atomique, INDIA : : :

See also:

- Blotted Science
- Ron Jarzombek
- Spastic Ink

Watchtower official website

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Control & ResistanceControl & Resistance
Divebomb 2013
Audio CD$17.38
$10.98 (used)
Energetic DisassemblyEnergetic Disassembly
ROCKADROME 2009
Audio CD$450.86
$32.00 (used)
Demonstrations In ChaosDemonstrations In Chaos
Rockadrome 2008
Audio CD$10.94
$11.48 (used)
Control & ResistanceControl & Resistance
Noise 2003
Audio CD$146.77
$5.00 (used)
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WATCHTOWER discography


Ordered by release date | Showing ratings (top albums) | Help Progarchives.com to complete the discography and add albums

WATCHTOWER top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

4.03 | 58 ratings
Energetic Disassembly
1985
4.04 | 102 ratings
Control and Resistance
1989

WATCHTOWER Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

WATCHTOWER Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

WATCHTOWER Boxset & Compilations (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.08 | 7 ratings
Demonstrations in Chaos
2002

WATCHTOWER Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)

3.89 | 8 ratings
The Size of Matter
2010

WATCHTOWER Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Control and Resistance by WATCHTOWER album cover Studio Album, 1989
4.04 | 102 ratings

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Control and Resistance
Watchtower Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by Atavachron
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

3 stars I'm a big Jarzombek fan so I'll be blunt but fair, because this is a really very good record. Aside from the fact that the old-school British metal of Maiden and Priest is unmistakably present (it was '89 after all), Ron Jarzombek hadn't quite arrived as the tech demon he'd soon become, and the ground rhythms are generally textbook and derivative, there is much here to admire and appreciate. Particularly at the time. "Extreme Tech" didn't nominally exist yet and the heaviest tech we were getting was from Voivod and a tiny number of others. So there is no doubt this Texas band and Control and Resistance's material and odd fascination with Soviet imagery were important, to say the least. Not as extraordinarily complex and unique as Jarz's later work with Spastic Ink or Blotted Science, but impressive by almost any standard.

Grim 'Instruments of Random Murder' and similar 'The Eldritch' are okay but nothing to write home about, though Alan Tecchio's Dickinsonian highs and phrasing navigate the vivacissimos nicely. More interesting is 'Mayday in Kiev' where the preoccupation with Bolshevism starts to emerge complete with angry mobs in the streets and sweet little self-harmonies from Jarz woven in to the smart chord progressions. This stride is kept for very nice and imperceptibly jazzy 'The Fall of Reason' featuring a squealer from Ron, followed by the solid title cut, companion piece 'Hidden Instincts', vaguely Rush-like 'Life Cycles', and kick-ass 'Dangerous Toy'.

Just a hint of what was to come from a guitar genius like no other, Watchtower's second is highly admirable tech-metal when almost no one was ready to either play or listen to it, and should satisfy most thinking headbangers.

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 Control and Resistance by WATCHTOWER album cover Studio Album, 1989
4.04 | 102 ratings

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Control and Resistance
Watchtower Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by Ytse_Jam

4 stars Watchtower is a progressive/technical metal band formed in Austin (TX) in 1982. Although they they did not reach the notoriety of other groups such as Coroner or Atheist, they also had some importance for the formation of the typical sound of a certain technical metal influenced by progressive music, characterized by high technical quality, complicated compositions, odd signatures, more or less complex lyrics, and are listed among their influences by bands likes Dream Theater. If their debut album, Energetic Disassembly, was already a good example of all of this, Control and Resistance fully earns the title of one of the most important works of the genre. Inspired songwriting, excellent technique and , not less important, very good production. The disc runs smoothly for all its 43 minutes without boring. Instrumentally, in addition to the obvious approval of the guitar work of Ron Jarzombek, a special praise to Alan Tecchio and Rick Colaluca, vocals and drums, respectively, the authors of intense vocal lines and inspired and effective percussion. After this album, the band split up, then reunited in 1999. Some members of the group continued their activities with other musical projects during the period of separation, but only Ron Jarzombek, with Spastic Ink, remained in progressive scene. Now they're still active with the original lineup, but without the support of Alan Tecchio.

Vote: full 4 stars.

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 Control and Resistance by WATCHTOWER album cover Studio Album, 1989
4.04 | 102 ratings

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Control and Resistance
Watchtower Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by zravkapt
Special Collaborator Post Rock Team

4 stars This is the second album from Watchtower where they get a new vocalist. Their original singer joined the not-quite-hair metal-but-close-enough band Dangerous Toys. I'm not sure why the last song on this album is called "Dangerous Toy", but it is. The first Watchtower album from 1985 I have not heard yet, but if it's as groundbreaking as I hear it is I should investigate it. I'm really curious as to what a 'technical metal' album sounds like being released at a time when thrash metal was going through puberty. On Control And Resistance this band from Texas both sounds like the contemporary thrash of California as well as the future death metal of Florida. Although I haven't heard the debut, this album is itself ahead of it's time. The music features lots of time and tempo changes. Some finger-tapping and fast runs on guitar. Generally you can hear the bass which is not always the case with a lot of late 1980s thrash and extreme metal. A noticeable Rush influence is present. The instrumental parts are usually more interesting than the vocal sections. I don't like the vocals too much, they sound like a singer from some Judas Priest or Iron Maiden tribute band. The vocal parts remind me at times of the thrash bands Exodus and Overkill. "Instruments Of Random Murder" is generally in thrash mode but there are hints of more technical metal here as well. "The Eldritch" is one of the more traditional metal sounding songs, very much of it's time.

"Mayday In Kiev" starts off as an almost Atheist/Cynic type of jazzy metal. When the vocals arrive the song starts to sound like Overkill. Features some Metallica style start/stop playing. Nice bass playing during the guitar solo. "The Fall Of Reason" is more extreme technical metal than the previous songs. Some complex playing before the vocals start. The instrumental parts are very technical while the vocal parts are more traditional thrash with some nice melodic harmony vocals in places. A cool part with bass harmonics before it goes into a very Rush sounding section that could have come from Hemispheres. Later on gets more Overkill sounding for awhile. This is a standout track - there wasn't a lot of metal that sounded like this in 1989.

You can listen to the title track here on PA. It opens with a jazzy bassline and some chorused guitar along with a sci-fi sound on synth. Then it goes into some great tech metal...almost sounds like a mix of Anthrax and Return To Forever. The vocal parts sound like Exodus/Overkill. This track keeps changing and is one of the highlights of the album. The vocal parts of "Hidden Instincts" are again in Exodus/Overkill territory. The instrumental sections are much more technical and interesting. The bass work really stands out here. "Life Cycles" is more melodic than the other tracks. Features some nice chorused guitar. Parts of the song foreshadow what Death/Atheist/Cynic would be doing in the early 1990s.

That's the only song where I actually like the vocals (sometimes). Speaking of vocals and vocalists, here comes that "Dangerous Toy" song, sounding nothing like the band it shares its name with. Great thrash meets technical extreme metal although the vocal parts still have a Exodus/Overkill vibe to them. Control And Resistance is sort of a 'missing link' between what came before and what came after when it comes to the more extreme and non-mainstream side of metal. It sounds dated and current at the same time. Maybe not the best tech/extreme prog metal album but one of the more important ones. 4 stars.

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 The Size of Matter by WATCHTOWER album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 2010
3.89 | 8 ratings

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The Size of Matter
Watchtower Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by Conor Fynes
Prog Reviewer

4 stars 'The Size Of Matter' - Watchtower (Single)

Released as a teaser in anticipation of a new album that may, or may not come, Watchtower's 'The Size Of Matter' is a new song from a band who has laid dormant for over twenty years. In that time, Ron Jarzombek has gone on to other great things with his music, and if the direction on this track indicates, he seems to have taken creative control over the band. For the first minute or so of play length, 'The Size Of Matter' rolls and jerks onward like a typical Jarzombek tech fest, not unlike what he currently does with the Blotted Science project. When Alan Tecchio's vocals come in however, the listener is reminded that Watchtower is back. The song takes a thrashy turn from there, bringing back to light their proggy leanings. The lyrics explore a range of mathematical and scientific concepts,and it does a good job of creating a spacey vibe for the song. Watchtower don't sound like they used to anymore though; Tecchio's vocals have aged, and while still powerful, don't sound capable of hitting those brilliant highs. 'The Size Of Matter' is less thrashy, and more tech-oriented than the Watchtower of old, and if these guys decide to go somewhere with the plans of a third album, it's sure to be a blast.

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 Energetic Disassembly by WATCHTOWER album cover Studio Album, 1985
4.03 | 58 ratings

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Energetic Disassembly
Watchtower Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by Conor Fynes
Prog Reviewer

4 stars 'Energetic Disassembly' - Watchtower (7/10)

At a time when 'being thrash' usually amounted to little more than playing fast and gurgling into a microphone, a band from Texas sought to change everything. Called by some to be the first prog metal album, and many more to be the first 'tech' metal album, Watchtower's debut 'Energetic Disassembly' was a piece of music on another level than virtually everything else that was calling itself heavy metal at the time. For that, this album can be considered one of those ahead-of-its-time classics. Indeed, the work here impresses, although there are some issues with the sound that would thankfully be worked out with the band's near-perfect sophomore 'Control & Resistance'.

Although Watchtower is best known for its later lineup of Alan Tecchio and Ron Jarzombek, the sound of Watchtower here is not any different. The music here is fast, blistering, ferociously technical, and overtly flirting with progressive structure. Even compared to today's thrash metal, Watchtower are fiercely technical performers. Billy White's style of riffage is rooted in the same thrash style as a band like Slayer, but there is much more activity within the passages, and it doesn't let up. Rick Cocaluca's drum work shows signs of jazz influence, but the sound of his set is booming. Doug Keyser's contribution with the bass is the most subtle of the instrumentalists, but it sports a technical prowess that almost parallels the guitars. And, of course, the vocals of Jason McMaster are here as well. Although he would be latter replaced by the superior Alan Tecchio (a dead-ringer for McMaster), Jason's high-pitched falsetto is a core trademark of the band. The way he belts his voice makes Watchtower a truly all-encompassing technical band. Although McMaster's vocals are undeniably powerful, the unrelenting high-pitched shriek can wear thin for me, and this is an issue I suspect many listeners will have when listening to 'Energetic Disassembly'.

The songwriting brilliantly incorporates the technical virtuosity of the band, but ultimately, the songs are not very distinct from each other, and it's not uncommon to feel a sense of deja vu within the second half of the album. As well, I cannot help but keep comparing 'Energetic Disassembly' to the band's second album 'Control & Resistance', and my awe of that one. To me, it feels like the band improved virtually every aspect of their sound with that one, from the replacement of vocalists, to more clearly defined songwriting, and the trademark guitar work of Ron Jarzombek. Here, some of the things I loved most about the second album had not yet been injected into the band's system, but the core elements of what make Watchtower so great are here in full. A great technical thrash album from a classic band.

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 Control and Resistance by WATCHTOWER album cover Studio Album, 1989
4.04 | 102 ratings

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Control and Resistance
Watchtower Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by Conor Fynes
Prog Reviewer

5 stars 'Control & Resistance' - Watchtower (9/10)

In the 1980's, thrash was a-boomin'. As a style that already values technicality as one of its central tenants, it can be expected that the progressive variant of this would be something to behold. 1989 in particular was an incredible year for thrash metal, with two of my favourite albums of that style being released. The greater of the two was Voivod's 'Nothingface', an inventive beast of a record that felt miles ahead of most everything else coming out at that time. In fact, one of the only other albums in metal that year that hoped to compete was my second pick, Watchtower's seminal release 'Control & Resistance.' After a major critical success with their debut 'Energetic Disassembly', this colossal Texas outfit struck harder than ever with their sophomore. 'Control & Resistance' picks up what Rush started, and sets it on fire, screaming. This is without a doubt, an album that still does not receive the wide attention and love it deserves.

Watchtower guitarist Ron Jarzombek is the key here, the man through whom I discovered this album. Described as the 'father of technical metal', that label certainly is not far off, if it isn't already spot on. Although thrash is generally fast and technical as it is, there is a much greater sense of tightness and calibration to Jarzombek's shredding and riff work, then say- a band like Slayer. The music is certainly thrash, but there is much more nuance to the performance than the genre is generally used to. In particular, the vocals of Alan Techhio (a fitting name, eh?) hit most every other vocalist in thrash out of the ballpark; his vocals attack the same falsetto range as Geddy Lee, with the precision and scope of an acrobat.

The drums and bass here are marvelous, with the band as a whole constantly changing up their act and tone of the music. Although there is a fairly stable sound set that 'Control & Resistance' abides by- that being speedy thrash- there are so many nooks that Watchtower exploit along the course. The songwriting is explosive and fierce, and the lyrics take the same thinking man's approach as the music. Topics revolve around society and war, and the relationship these two concepts have with each other. Although Techhio's vocals are sure to pierce one's ears at the surface level, the intelligence invested in the lyrics improves subsequent listens.

I did not expect any of Ron Jarzombek's earlier work to be any pushover, but I was blown away by Watchtower and this album in particular. Although the diversity is lacking and over- the-top shriek of Alan Techhio is at times jarring, I cannot help but love and revere the music here; an album that sounds as fresh now as it did back then.

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 Control and Resistance by WATCHTOWER album cover Studio Album, 1989
4.04 | 102 ratings

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Control and Resistance
Watchtower Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by DeKay

1 stars The second album of Watchtower was released four years after their debut. Alan Tecchio replaced Jason McMaster on vocals and Billy White (who contributed to the composition of half the album) was replaced by Ron Jarzombek (who co-wrote the other half with Doug Keyser, the band's main composer and leader). I think that these line-up changes were good for the band, especially the arrival of the (now legendary) Jarzombek, who is really amazing throughout the album. Such guitar playing was from outer space in 1989. The album was voted as one of 'The Top Ten Shred Albums of the 80's' in a retrospective feature in Guitar World magazine and I really can't agree more. Jarzombek's lead bursts are magnificent and innovative for the time.

OK, this is the 'but' section. Tecchio's voice is better than McMaster's, but the vocal lines (though a bit better) are still very poor. Sounding like jazzy Metallica, such high thrashy vocal notes (some of which are impossible to hit) were not necessary for Watchtower to impress their audience. The lyrics are also a bit better than in their debut, but they still are naive and sometimes lack a deeper meaning. Self-indulgence is evident in Watchtower's music (in all albums), and this wouldn't be a problem (though really not my taste in prog music) if the result was impressive. The main thing, as in "Energetic Disassembly" is the compositional level. Even though slightly better, the songs are not attractive at all, and besides the extremely high level of the band's technical skills, there is not much left. There is though a kind of different character in the songs that Jarzombek co-wrote with Keyser (one of the best metal bass players by the way). "Mayday in Kiev", "Hidden Instincts", "Life Cycles" and "Dangerous Toy" sound a bit fresher, but I think that generally Watchtower lacked in inspiration or a really good composer.

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 Energetic Disassembly by WATCHTOWER album cover Studio Album, 1985
4.03 | 58 ratings

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Energetic Disassembly
Watchtower Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by DeKay

1 stars Historical reasons are not enough.

"Energetic Disassembly" is one of the first progressive extreme-tech metal albums. Released in 1985, this has very little to do with all kinds of '80s metal music. Watchtower are considered as one of the pioneers of that sound and one of the most technical metal bands in history.

The album is characterized by relatively small songs with the typical form (line-chorus, solo, e.t.c.), constantly changing rhythms and heavy riffs. The high-pitched voice of Jason McMaster (who later gained some success with Dangerous Toys) is very typical of the early days of Watchtower, but I have to admit I find it totally unattractive. The vocal lines are really poor and sometimes cheesy (much more suitable for a thrash metal band) and the tone is very disturbing in most of the album, and gets almost unbearable towards the end. Billy White's riffs are very good and even though the guitar solos are technically solid, they don't really help, because they remind more of excercises, than song parts. Rick Colaluca is a great drummer and Doug Keyser is a superb bass player, but the high level of musicianship is not enough for an album to be good. There are no good songs here and the lyrics are the worst possible for a progressive band, consisting of scattered pompous socially orientated words/phrases (suitable for a mediocre thrash/death metal band).

I once used to listen more to this band and now their music sounds nothing like my taste of prog metal. It is not a matter of too much metal, it's the lack of inspiration.

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 Energetic Disassembly by WATCHTOWER album cover Studio Album, 1985
4.03 | 58 ratings

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Energetic Disassembly
Watchtower Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by horsewithteeth11
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Many people consider this to be the start of progressive metal, and to be honest, I'd have to agree with them to an extent. This is definitely one of the albums that took metal from leather jackets with patches of all the classic metal bands and something for headbanging to infusing it with jazz fusion and adding the complexity of progressive music. Just don't listen to this and then be surprised that it doesn't sound like Dream Theater.

Doug Keyser and Rick Colaluca together make up one of the best rhythm sections that I've ever heard in metal. Billy White has some ridiculous soloing and Jason McMaster has an aggressive voice that of course works well with this type of music. At times I can almost hear a bit of Geoff Tate in his vocals to be honest. The songs are well constructed and the production quality is what you would expect of more extreme metal circa mid-80s. This is an absolutely groundbreaking record with few, if any, flaws found in it.

And yet, to be honest, some of the songs feel like they run together and start to feel a bit similar, but that's not really surprising considering this was the first time something this technical was ever seen in metal. Obviously it's going to take some time to get the kinks worked out. If however you want to hear something that was totally refreshing and groundbreaking, as well as technical and a bit more aggressive, then I would definitely recommend this album. 4 instruments shredded to bits out of 5.

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 Energetic Disassembly by WATCHTOWER album cover Studio Album, 1985
4.03 | 58 ratings

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Energetic Disassembly
Watchtower Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by Certif1ed
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

4 stars Energetic Re-Assembly

Maybe I shouldn't review on first listen... this is the first time I've listened to Energetic Disassembly - and, while I didn't find it easy going, I certainly felt no need to stop the album or skip bits out of boredom. There's a lot to try and absorb in here, and my interest was maintained from the moment it started.

While some bits seem to be there for the sake of it, there are more bits that are there in order to realise a very twisted metal musical imagination, and once you've got the flow of where the ideas are coming from and going to, there's a lot of cohesion to it all.

That said, the beginning strikes you as sloppy, and the vocals are like a monotonous version of Rob Halford, with underpants full of fire ants, the production is naff, the bass farty, and everyone except the guitarist is out of time and struggling to keep up.

This is not uncommon in the more extreme metal acts of the time, as this new genre was subject to even more prejudice than the older form (which is saying something), production engineers generally had yet to get to grips with the music, and bands often hurried to get their ideas down, because studio time was expensive.

But what Billy White does with the guitar here is quite astonishing, as are many of the compositional ideas contained in this album, which, as other reviews state, is where the full ideal of Progressive Metal in it's most Out There and technical sense began. This is not an album for fans of catchy tunes, tinkly keyboards or other such pleasantries.

This is an album almost without precedent - one can detect the strong influence of Steve Vai in White's playing, and the complex compositions vaguely suggest Frank Zappa, while the overall style fits the Heavy Metal canon, particularly the early-mid 1980s explosion of thrash metal. Bands like this were not common. Bands attempting something like this were...

The third track, Tyrants in Distress suffers quite a lot from the technicality for it's own sake thing, and is the first low point on the album in terms of overall quality. The dive-bombing, harmonic flurrying and angular anti-scale shredding is an all-too-scarce treat in this song.

Trouble is, once you've noticed this for it's own sake and soloist-led tendency, you start hearing it everywhere.

You see, the bass tends to follow the root, despite odd solo moments and some nice fills, the drums tend towards the boom-pish - and the standard Iron Maiden and Diamond Head beats - but do have longer moments of doing some very interesting stuff - the title track is a good example of where drum and (brief) bass interest may be found.

Without doubt, Billy White is the star here, but the overall sound that the band make is something almost entirely new. This is the technical approach taken by many to the still growing Thrash Metal genre (ne 1982), but at the highest level for the time - and a pretty high standard it remains.

There's a preponderance of standard song structures here, and many repetitive riffs - but there are so many riffs, and they undergo such savage development treatment, that, as a benchmark of Progressive Metal, you could choose a worse one - although you could also choose a much better produced one too.

The riffs aggressively turn themselves inside out and upside down, do unexpected things, fly off on the occasional tangent and ride the edge of being completely unhinged - yet at the same time, maintain the scary cohesion of a kind of carefully controlled insanity. Sometimes, they drop into something approaching the mundane - but it's like the weather in Scotland: If you don't like what's currently going on, hang on in there, and something more acceptable will be along shortly.

As an insight into the ideals that are expressed (when you read definitions of the genre that often seem preposterous), this stands out across the decades as an intensely shining beacon of potential.

At it's essence, this is a heavy metal album - but one that I cannot find an equal of from 1986. To properly compete with the giants of Prog, I'd like to hear more ensemble work, rather than a featured soloist, clearly responsible for most of the composition - but you can hear that this concept was not unknown to Watchtower the band, (except McMaster, who makes no attempts to be a vocalist, rather, he simply sings the songs).

Given that it's the bands' debut, and a long way from what anyone else was doing at the time, I have no hesitation in recommending this as a good addition to any prog music collection - but mainly from the point of view of it's historic importance. The Wow factor soon fades, as this is an album of potential more than realisation.

Four stars, because, despite a rather shabby veneer, three stars isn't quite enough - I'd say it's not really essential to most Prog fans, although in many ways, it ought to be. What's underneath the exterior more than makes up for it.

Dream Who? :oP

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