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Watchtower - Energetic Disassembly CD (album) cover




Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

4.03 | 101 ratings

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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.

Conor Fynes | 4/5 |


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