IVORY TOWER – Stronger (2019)
“Stronger” marks the 5th release of IVORY TOWER, a band that somehow eluded me until now. But this new album title speaks for itself: the guys are back stronger than ever, and present powerful, playful, melodic and heavy collection of songs plenty of sophisticated vocal melodies and kick-ass guitar riffs. Think of Metallica’s Black album; this is heavy but not metallic, and not hard rock but plenty of groove. Join both, add a pinch of classic ’80s and clever arrangements, and you have a very good hard ‘n heavy album.
What you’ll hear on “Stronger” is an ambitious, high-octane take on prog-metal that goes for the throat as often as it goes for the earworm. This is a majorly talented band taking chances and really getting after it.
Opener “The Offer” is plenty aggressive and surprisingly heavy, but man, do they go for those big hooks! Dirk Meyer leaves no room to doubt his vocal range, coming in with amazing high notes that would fracture a lesser man’s larynx, then as the riffs get meaty and thick, his delivery turns gritty and tough.
The man has a big presence and adapts his approach to the tenor of the music admirably as the band shifts directions. And that chorus guarantees consideration for Song o’ the Year. It’s that good.
“Loser” changes things up by opting for mid-paced riffs and a simplified delivery that reminds just a bit of vintage Threshold, relying on big vocal hooks to guide things along.
“End Transmission” is the album’s single and deserves the honor, sounding like a perfect blend of Vanden Plas and Jorn for extra cred. Dirk delivers another big performance and shows he can punch a song through to the promised land.
“In Me” sounds like a lost track from Dream Theater’s second album, but with guest vocals from Dennis DeYoung (Styx), and it’s an oddball charmer that will get under your skin.
The album highlight arrives late in the game with “Passing,” and it’s a jaw dropper of a tune with time changes, atmospheric passages, and Dirk hitting the kinds of insanely high notes I thought were forever lost over the horizon.
“The Wolves You’ve Let In” is a solid, simmering metal ballad in the vein or early Scorpions, plenty of emotion and feeling. Then “Passing” has some kind of Queensryche touch in the riffs and harmonies, but also Eighties Euro metal influences with that swirling keys.
Are there any downsides after so much winning? Maybe. The title track ‘Strong’ feels like a wrong turn into groove metal bro-core, with traces of Disturbed creeping in where they aren’t welcome. It’s good for the band try to diversify even if doesn’t works, but it’s the title track… I don’t like it and seems out of place on this album.
Talk about a surprise hit out of left field. “Stronger” is kicking my ass all over town, and though I knew the old version of Ivory Tower, this one is a completely unrecognizable ‘new band’, much better and complete.
It’s heavy, adventurous, infectious – this is a Tower you can call home.
01. The Offer
03. End Transmission
05. In Me
08. Flight of the Dragon
09. Life Will Fade
11. The Wolves You’ve Let In
12. One Day
Dirk Meyer – Vocals
Thorsten Thrunke – Drums
Sven Boge – Guitars
Bjorn Bombach – Bass
Frank Fasold – Keyboards