Concepts of Math: Book One
7th October 2016 – Prosthetic Records
01. M Theory Overture
02. Arguments Against Design
03. Technology Inaction
04. The Size of Matter
05. Mathematica Calculis
The brainchild of Blotted Science’s madman guitarist Ron Jarzombek, Watchtower are legendary name from the late 80s, credited by several – including ex-Dream Theater drummer Mike Portnoy – with inventing progressive metal. This is despite the band only making two (highly acclaimed) albums before breaking up following a hand injury to Jarzombek: 1985’s Energetic Disassembly and 1989’s Control and Resistance. Thankfully 2010 saw a reunion and a new single, and finally, after a long aching wait, we’ve new material in the form of Concepts of Math: Book 1.
The release is an EP rather than a full length, and isn’t all brand new material as it collects that 2010 single, “The Size of Matter”, together with four new songs. The first three of them were released as singles in 2015, but given the lack of fanfare around their release and that they were planned for this release anyways, it seems prudent to just say they’re new songs for this release. It should definitely be noted and appreciated that Watchtower have taken their time and released only an EP rather than trying to fill up material for a full album; a legacy such as theirs is hard to follow up satisfactorily. While the title of “Book One” implies that there will be more, it was a good move of them not to write a bunch of filler songs.
It is immediately clear that the energy has not left this legendary band. Like a fine wine they have aged, but matured rather than worn away: the technical prowess is still there in spades; each song wonderfully crafted, spanning the bridge between blindingly technical and rippingly thrashy. If you were ever wondering where Vektor got their sound from, Watchtower is clearly a large influence.
Guitarist Ron Jarzombek is legendary. His work in Spastic Ink and Blotted Science after Watchtower is stunning, and it’s clear that keeping busy has kept him sharp even after his hand injury, as his playing is fantastic. His work on the instrumental “M Theory Overture” is especially fine, and his spastic leads littered all over the release are nothing short of magnificent. Not to be outdone, drummer Rick Colaluca and bassist Doug Keyser match Jarzombek line for line with excellence of their own. They’re less lead oriented, obviously, but no less impressive, with some wonderful syncopations in many passages.
“Technology Inaction” is surely the best song on the release, mixing a really catchy chorus. flitting guitar and bass flurries, and interesting lyrics about technology causing a laziness or inactivity in today’s society. An instrumental section follows which sounds distinctly - Blotted Science-like and is undoubtedly Jarzombek; it’s just fantastic.
The older song on the EP, “The Size of Matter”, pulls its weight as well, with a really cool chorus and some solid quantum guitar lines. Then there’s the album’s closer, the epic “Mathematica Calculis” which twists and winds and sprawls a way through nearly ten minutes.
And through it all, there is a sense of freshness here. Watchtower clearly didn’t get back together to relive the glory days and release a new album with material from the 80s; they have taken a page from Cynic’s book and unleashed a powerful, modern evolution of their sound as if they had been releasing music and developing their sound the whole time. It’s aided my a mix obviously far superior to their 80s work; everything sounds so meaty and every note comes through with absolute precision.
Matching his bandmates vocalist Alex Tecchio sounds great as well; in fact, probably better than he did back on Control and Resistance. He powers through “The Size of Matter” like a neutrino through matter, and delivers some memorable lines in “Technology Inaction”.
Concepts of Math: Book One is a sublime return for Watchtower. To come back out of essentially nowhere and deliver this kind of material is truly ballsy, especially under the consideration that progressive thrash metal isn’t really a big scene right now – but not only have Watchtower come back, but they have done it without just rehashing their classic material. Their songwriting has not diminished, and this release is essential for any metalhead. Here’s hoping more will follow soon.