Ottawa’s Black Tower blasts classic metal into punk with crushing debut ‘The Secret Fire’

BLACK TOWER Promo (Outdoor - Colour)You know what’s super annoying as a writer who has to hold it down and listen to tons of new records each week? When an album comes out of left field, tosses you down a flight of steps, sits on your chest, and convinces your brain you need to hear it over and over again, the rest of your work be damned.

While you all cry for me and burn effigies for my giant workload many metal listeners would kill for, let me tell you about Black Tower. This Ottawa-based trio fires up classic heavy metal, black metal, power, and punk in such a glorious, fire-breathing manner on their debut “The Secret Fire,” it’s impossible not to get caught up in their spirit and be swept away. The album is being released both by No Idea (that covers the punk and hardcore bases) and Unspeakable Axe (for the tried-and-true metal fans, who will get a ton out of this), and it’s a platter that will sweep you up like a chariot and run you into the night, torch in hand. I’m pretty sure I can’t fully encapsulate in words what a damn rush this collection is, so just take my word for it, guys. This band is onto something good.

SAMO_12Jacket_Standard_RJCThis killer threesome is comprised of guitarist/vocalist Erin Ewing, bassist/vocalist Skottie Lobotomy (who are truly a tandem when it comes to vocals, as each get equal time to do damage), and drummer Dave Monomania. The band’s only been operational for the past two years, which is astonishing considering how well-oiled their sound already is, and this record is one that is a weird hybrid that could find favor among so many different audiences, sort of like a Royal Thunder, Castle, or Kylesa. Really, there is no ceiling for them, and the power they already display seems to indicate they are aware of that and will shoot to whatever levels they can to come up with something explosive and anthemic.

Opener “Death March” is a total rouser, a blast of energy and tenacity that is so infectious, it’s ridiculous. Ewing leads most of the way, shrieking with power and fury, howling, “We’re ready to die.” The song transitions into a new section, with Lobotomy taking over and offering more punk-style vocals (that’s what he does best), singing, “We have blood on our swords,” as you can imagine the battle finally finished. Holy shit, what a great song. “Black Moon” keeps the energy high, with a punk-fueled assault and raucous vocals, imagining that “rituals begin” as the fire and spirits rise. “The Dark Lord” starts hazy, with funeral bells ringing, before the tempo bursts. Ewing and Lobotomy trade turns on vocals, and the chorus is a burst of juice that will get your blood flowing.  “Riders” has a more ominous opening before it hits the gas and rushes forward. Lobotomy takes the verses, with Ewing raging in later, urging, “Burn our candles through the night.” The song has a delirious, aggressive bend to it.

Speaking of aggression, “Shadows” has a violent black metal feel to it, leading into NWOBHM-style riffs that kill and Ewing shrieking like a demon. The pace is earth quaking, with melody moving in here and there, and an up-tempo assault dressing the line, “Trapped on Earth, these shadows are ghosts.” “Winter” also has its dark moments, with the guitars conjuring a classic metal sense and the band hitting a mad gallop. Both vocalists go cleaner and powerful on this track, with the song feeling wholly punk inspired. “The Dragon Flies” thrashes madly, with thick keys lurking beneath the chaos, and Lobotomy’s singing running headlong into Ewing’s screams. There are some fantastic guitar runs as the song nears its ends, causing the fires to burn even brighter. “Night Siege” has a traditional Medieval castle-ransacking adventure to it, with smothering guitar leads, speed, and the singing traded off, with, “To take the kingdom, take our freedom,” coloring the scene perfectly. The song is destructive and blazing, with the final salvo causing bruises. The closing title cut is an outro in the truest sense, a collection of rustic acoustics, synth warmth, and sounds that could remind of Bathory’s and Primordial’s more primitive moments. It’s a nice breath of smoky air at the end of a heathen journey.

Black Tower won me over with a single visit with “The Secret Fire,” and as noted, it’s an album that’s been in massive rotation as I work to squeeze in other albums I need to cover. I love the band’s energy, tenacity, and power, and I am really intrigued as to where they take this thing from here. This band has all the possibilities in the world in front of them, and it’ll be awesome to watch them capitalize on that as they unfurl their debut for the world and create other works into the future.

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