REVIEW: WATCHTOWER – “Concepts Of Math: Book One” [EP]
Legendary progressive metal band Watchtower have returned after an absence of 27 years to put out a new (non-compilation) release. ‘Concepts of Math: Book One’ comprises four songs that were released previously, and a new piece as well. The result is a short 29-minute EP, and the band’s first statement in a new century.
Longtime fans of the band will already know what to expect, and for them, getting this album is a foregone conclusion. I knew the band by reputation only, so I was quite interested to hear for myself what they sounded like. The album begins with “M Theory Overture,” a brisk 4–minute instrumental. I was immediately drawn in and impressed by the chops of Ron Jarzombek (guitar), Doug Keyser (bass), and drummer Rick Colaluca. The trio has been the core of the band since ‘Control and Resistance’ (1989), and this piece showed off their considerable skills, definitely getting me hyped to hear the rest of the album. The second track, “Arguments Against Design,” started, and again the music was electrifying. Then someone started to sing.
I’ll say right now that I’m going to make any fan of the band angry. And I know that among some, vocalist Allan Tecchio is loved and revered. But apparently, no one ever told him that the 80s have been over for almost three decades. I would personally sooner stick an ice pick repeatedly into both ears while gargling battery acid than ever listen to this man sing again. The tone is obnoxious, his inflexions grating, and throughout the four songs he sings on, he delivers some of the corniest lyrics this side of Manowar.
And it’s a pity; the music throughout this album is stunning, and the playing is tremendous. But I can’t stand the vocals. Obviously it’s a style that many people like a lot, and those people will get considerably more enjoyment out of this album than I did. I wanted to like it; the mix is perfect for the technical complexity oozing through every minute of the album. It’s clear, punchy, and, unlike so many metal albums, Keyser’s phenomenal bass work can be heard fully and impressively. I just wish it had been an instrumental album.
‘Concepts of Math: Book One’ will please any longtime fan of the band. The music itself is tight, complex, and an excellent example of how exhilarating prog metal can be. But for me, the vocals are a travesty and destroy what would otherwise be a very good album. If you already like the band, or enjoy the high theatrical nature of 80s power metal vocals, then you can completely ignore my assessment of the vocals, and are actually advised to as well. I wanted to like this work, and on one hand I did, but it’s not anything I’ll be returning to.