Tower lash back with blazing classic heavy metal, energize blood on ‘Shock to the System’

Photo by Evan Parness

There was a time when heavy metal wasn’t divided by subgenres and people guarding the gates of each with silly requirements. It was just a gigantic force that united every band under the same banner because everyone was fighting for similar things. It’s good that things splintered because metal got to see exactly what it was capable of doing, but if would be fun if there could be more pure coexistence.

Maybe there is and I just have been in the house for too long, but I got to thinking of metal’s glory era when taking on “Shock to the System,” the second record from NYC bruisers Tower. The music they create mines the good stuff that’s been aging in barrels for decades, and they do their best to prove a modern band can capture that same magic. They also have a secret weapon with vocalist Sarabeth Linden who is so good it makes me angry. I’m not as good at anything in my life as she is at using her insanely powerful voice, and it makes me feel bad about myself. By the way, go find the Two Minutes to Late Night clip of Linden singing Boston’s “Long Time” and just sit in awe. But the rest of the band—guitarists James Danzo and Zak Penley, bassist Jeff Filmer (Jack Florio now handles these duties), drummer James Jones—more than hold up their end with playing that’s absolutely on fire and makes your brain melt down based on the majesty of true, glorious heavy fucking metal.

“Blood Moon” kicks things off with the proper amount of energy with Linden giving off the first indication of her goddamn ridiculously strong vocals. “It’s shining like the sea, it’s taking over me tonight,” she wails as the band pummels and sends you off heaving. “Prince of Darkness” is a little, uh, darker with the guitars firing up and hearty “woah-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh” calls getting your blood going. Things stay on fire as the track stampedes toward the finish line. “Metatron” is an instrumental, and there’s nothing wrong with it at all, but it’s kind of like running a big play without your best player. It’s decent, it doesn’t overstay its welcome, and then it pushes into “Running Out of Time” that gets the juices flowing properly again. The riffs push as the tempo kills, and Linden warns, “You better run, you better hide.” The soloing explodes with power and chugs hard, the chorus jolts, and the track simmers in flames. “Lay Down the Law” lets the bass pace as the guitars get churning, and Linden’s vocals echo over the verses, feeling a little spooky. The track really comes to life as the singing is a little raspier, with Linden calling, “Sometimes you know you got to lay down the law.” Point taken. Killer track.

“Hired Gun” has a dirtier open before the guitars take hold, and the track blasts through the gates. The soloing ignites while the playing stampedes, kicking up dust as the singing reigns over everything. “The Black Rose” has a speedy start and a pace that can dice flesh, and the simple chorus of the title called back is effective and should get over live. The soloing blisters and makes your nervous system come to life, the chorus races again, and the track has a smoldering end. “On the Line” gallops right away with Linden admitting, “Can’t hold on, but I want you.” That bridge leads to a great chorus that explodes with Linden declaring, “You are mine, you are the one that I love,” as the guitars give off steam and race to the finish. “In Dreams” is the longest track, running 6:58, and the riffs go off, though things turn moodier later. “I need your light,” Linden calls as the playing has a frosty edge before the guitar work melts through the ice. The tempo tramples as the playing splits your chest in two, and Linden wails, “I feel your light inside,” as the track hammers closed. “Powder Keg” is your closer, and it’s one last chance to soak in your adrenaline as everything lights up. “Here comes to wrecking ball,” Linden warns as the soloing jabs your ribcage, things glisten, and the track blasts out for good.

Tower is a great classic metal band with a goddamn incredible singer in Linden, and they make the most of “Shock to the System,” their eye-opening second record. This is a really fun album, something that should bridge generations as gray hairs and newer listeners can find a lot to love with these songs. As good as the record is, I’d imagine it’s even stronger live, so let’s get our shit together so that can become more of a reality.

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