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Watchtower Energetic Disassembly album cover
4.03 | 113 ratings | 13 reviews | 30% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
prog rock music collection

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Studio Album, released in 1985

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Violent Change (3:22)
2. Asylum (3:48)
3. Tyrants In Distress (5:59)
4. Social Fears (4:41)
5. Energetic Disassembly (4:39)
6. Argonne Forest (4:38)
7. Cimmerian Shadows (6:35)
8. Meltdown (3:59)

Total time 37:41

Line-up / Musicians

- Jason McMaster / vocals
- Billy White / guitar
- Doug Keyser / bass
- Rick Colaluca / drums, e-percussion

Releases information

Artwork: Billy White with Martha Grenon

LP Zombo Records ‎- none (1985, US)
LP Back On Black ‎- BOBV255LP (2012, UK)

CD Institute of Art Records ‎- RTD 397.0002.2 (1993, Germany) Remastered, different track list order
CD Monster Underground ‎- MCD030 (2004, Canada) Original track list order
CD Rockadrome ‎- ROCK013-F-2 (2008, US)

Thanks to ProgLucky for the addition
and to Quinino for the last updates
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WATCHTOWER Energetic Disassembly ratings distribution

(113 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(30%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(42%)
Good, but non-essential (20%)
Collectors/fans only (4%)
Poor. Only for completionists (4%)

WATCHTOWER Energetic Disassembly reviews

Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by OpethGuitarist
4 stars The band that started the term "progressive metal" with this album. Probably will go as the most under appreciated genre breaker in music, this debut is much like the breakthrough we see in King Crimson's debut.

The album is essential for the understanding of the term progressive metal. This is where it starts. Its extremely technical, moreso than anything Dream Theater has done. The album isn't exactly spectacular, and it doesn't really move you. What it is is a cornerstone for the genre. It's unfortunate that Jarzombek and company will never get the acclaim they deserve.

This is essential to the understanding of progressive music, but its not a masterpiece, just a very under appreciated work of art.

Review by 1800iareyay
4 stars This album marked the beginning of prog metral. The movement is usually credited to Queensryche, but that wonderful band became prog metal becasue of this album as well as Fates Warning. Personally, I believe the first concrete prog metal album is FW's Awaken the Guardian, but Energetic Disassembly is the roots of prog metal, much like the Stooges are the roots of punk. Ron Jarzombeck, despite popular belief, does not appear on this album, though Billy White is no slouch. This album oozes with technical precision, so much so that you'll be pining for the feel and groove of DT's Train of Thought ;). However, any fan of prog metal would do well to own this slice of history, as the songs are strong and it helped jump start a movement.
Review by FruMp
5 stars And progressive metal was born. I remember the first time I listened to this it was truly something else, the over the top high pitched vocals, the great riffs, evey different instrument being shred to bits, the technologically paranoid lyrics, the blistering technicality (which was all but unheard of at the time). Energetic disassembly?, truly energetic music.

Once again the musicians are fantastic, Billy white on guitars pulls out some magical riffs and his solos are very interesting - not to mention the guy shreds. Jason McMaster on vocals is an acquired taste, the over the top high pitched hair metal shrill isn't for everyone - once I gave it a chance though I actually started to like it - a lot. The drums are the highlight of the musicianship here, extremely varied and interesting I always have a great deal of respect for drummers who are capable of producing intense technical metal drumming without the use of double kick (that isn't to say I don't love double kick) Rick Colaluca does so much more than hold the band together he pretty much dictates every song. Unfortunately while the bass is extremely competent it isn't terribly prominent and that brings me on to the next point - the production. I'm a big fan of 80's metal production but even so the production is very rough, the guitars are very far down in the mix (besides the solos) and it's hard to perceive much aside from the drums and the vocals which is kind of a shame and I think it would have been better with real drums as opposed to electronic drums.

Every track on this album is a gem, they all have some great bit that you'll want to listen to over and over again, though there are some standouts and early on meltdown is probably the best song on the album in my opinion. The main riff is great, perfect mix of musicality and technicality, the lyrics here really entertain me, talk of geiger counters, waste disposal, radiation sickness and it's capped off with a blistering solo. Energetic disassembly the title track is another highlight with a masterful drum driven middle section.

When I first listened to this I didn't even know it was the first progressive metal album ever and it blew me away when I did, this stuff is more progressive and technical than most progressive metal released today and that is an amazing achievement. Highly recommended to fans of 80's metal especially thrash and fans of progressive metal who want to explore the genre's roots.

Review by UMUR
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars "Energetic Disassembly" is the debut full-length studio album by technical/progressive metal act Watchtower. The album was originally released on vinyl (limited to around 3,000 copies) and cassette tape (limited to around 1,500 copies) through Zombo Records in November 1985. "Energetic Disassembly" has seen a couple of re-releases since. the first CD version was released through Institute of Art Records in 1993 (featuring a tracklist where the order of the tracks is different from the original version).

The music on the album is technical/progressive metal strongly influenced by jazz/fusion music. Especially the rhythm section of bassist Doug Keyser and drummer Rick Colaluca play complex fusion styled notes and rhythms. I don´t recall hearing any other metal act fusing metal with fusion to this extent as early as 1985. In that respect we´re dealing with a unique and groundbreaking release. I guess I would mention Rush as an influence but Watchtower is much more metal oriented. In fact "Energetic Disassembly" is a pretty raw and aggressive progressive metal album with high pitched screaming vocals, sharp and aggressive thrashy riffing, and loads of tempo- and time signature changes. The music on the album is far more aggressive (and progressive) than the music of contemporaries like Fates Warning, Crimson Glory, and Queensr˙che.

The tracks are generally very energetic and played with outstanding skill. We´re exposed to "out of this world" level musicianship. Even though especially the guitar occasionally plays some more "regular" sounding thrashy heavy metal riffs, "Energetic Disassembly" overall comes off as quite futuristic sounding. In other words it´s an album that has generally aged well. That´s despite a sound production that firmly places the album in the eighties. With music this powerful and energetic a sligthly flawed sound production is a minor issue though. A 4 - 4.5 star (85%) rating is fully deserved.

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

Review by horsewithteeth11
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.

Review by Conor Fynes
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.

Review by Warthur
4 stars It isn't quite true that technicality was absent from thrash prior to Watchtower bringing out this debut - Metallica were taking things in a more intricate direction on Ride the Lightning, after all - but Watchtower would, on Energetic Disassembly, push technicality to the fore in a way which no other band had dared to do. Before this, "progressive metal" mostly involved metal bands' nods to the prog bands of the past, like Iron Maiden's epics, but here Watchtower chart a course for innovative and complex musical experimentation in a metal context which demonstrated that the tougher, heavier, more extreme metal subgenres of metal could get artsy and clever too. Blazing a trail which would subsequently be taken by the likes of Cynic or Atheist, Energetic Disassembly is a brilliant example of how genres can be blended without blunting the appeal of either of them.

Latest members reviews

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 met ... (read more)

Report this review (#300566) | Posted by DeKay | Sunday, September 26, 2010 | Review Permanlink

4 stars Prog metal is overrated for what it really isn't. Today you see handfuls of kids praising Dream Theater, and maybe Opeth. Sure, these bands have some good stuff. But they are not, and I repeat they are NOT, the only Prog metal bands! Hear this: last year, when I was riding my bus, some chick list ... (read more)

Report this review (#159753) | Posted by Grimfurg | Friday, January 25, 2008 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Oh, I've been searching for a perfect progressive metal band, and this must be near it. Compared To Qüüensr˙che and Fates Warning, Watchtower is more dynamic and crazy - techical thrash, almost zeuhl-like. Watchtower has a great sound - all the best sides of 80s heavy rock, I think - and usually do ... (read more)

Report this review (#75131) | Posted by progressive | Sunday, April 16, 2006 | Review Permanlink

5 stars This is how it all started. The birth of an entirely new genre. Two decades have passed since its release and this album continues to define the term mastership. Slightly worse than its successor, vastly better than the majority of any prog metal album up to date. True prog metalheads should ... (read more)

Report this review (#58414) | Posted by | Monday, November 28, 2005 | Review Permanlink

5 stars mile stone technical metal-Tecchio not on this album- on the Control & resistance '90- this 80's release is jason McMasters) Guitarist is Billy WhiteRon also played on the 2nd album. amazing- technical precision timing, wacky riffs- thought provoking lyrics- and melody ahead of it's time- ta ... (read more)

Report this review (#38283) | Posted by | Saturday, July 2, 2005 | Review Permanlink

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