Tower – Shock to the System Review

The retro metal movement continues unabated, dragging modern metal back to the past (read as: the 70s). New York City’s Tower want their piece of that retro/proto-metal pie, and on sophomore platter Shock to the System, they’re ready to do whatever it takes to get it. Their stock in trade is high-octane, gritty, ballsy metal influenced by 70s rock, 80s traditional metal, and early speed, and folks, these cats are out for blood and treasure. Fronted by one Sarabeth Linden, who sounds like Janis Joplin and Ann Wilson fused together and extremely pissed off, Tower rock hard and ride free across 10 straight-forward, take no prisoners cuts, reminding of the likes of Riot City and early Razor. This is the Way, and this is the real Tower of power.

From the first moments of opener “Blood Moon” it’s apparent there’s no energy shortage at Fort Tower. The riffs and the hyperactive energy make for a heady speed rush, and when Ms. Linden’s leather-lunged wails hit the streets, a hooligan metal holiday must be declared. This woman is like a banshee possessed by a demon in the thrall of a titan. Her rough, raspy voice gives an already furious song another set of gears, and all are pulled in service of volcanic excess. And the burnouts and parking lot donuts continue from there. “Prince of Darkness” is a rough-hewn doom rocker with a huge 70s vibe, and Linden sells it like she needs the money to pay back the local loan shark. “Running Out of Time” is fast, furious, and catchy as all hell, with a noticeable Overkill influence informing the ugly, quasi-thrash riffs. It’s gloriously incendiary.

Without a weak track anywhere, you get shunted from one barn burner to the next. Standouts are many, but “Lay Down the Law” is especially entertaining as it threads the needle between Journey-esque 80s arena rock and early speed metal. Linden uses her big-timey AOR voice to ply you with accessibility before the razor blades and handcuffs come out and things go all sideways. It’s insanely catchy, silly, and intoxicating all at once. “Hired Gun” is all speed all the time, reminding me of Fire in the Brain era Oz, while “In Dreams” attempts something a bit different and “experimental,” stretching out an early 80s speed metal tune and giving it enough spit and polish to make it feel like something new and weird. Linden’s impassioned delivery seizes the day, and the direct, crunchy riffs sizzle and crash around her in a satisfying cacophony of manic exuberance. With most songs short and to the point in the 3-4 minute sweet spot, the 39 minutes of Shock to the System is the very model of a concise driveby release. It hits, hurts, and leaves you wondering what happened as you hit replay. Downsides? I suppose this could be the type of album you get a sugar rush from and spin feverishly for a few weeks, then put aside. I’ve had it going regularly for three weeks though and I’m not the least bit tired of it.

Recorded during the height of the pandemic with minimal rehearsals or prep, Shock bursts with primal rage and attitude. It’s raw, angry, and unrefined in all the ways I love, and there’s more honest, authentic energy boiling over here than anything I’ve heard in a while. To say Ms. Linden is a vocal powerhouse is to sell her short. This woman is a dynamo of raw emotion and she would make any band significantly better. Luckily, the band she’s in is already very good. Zak Penley and James Danzo rip things up with a wild collection of riffs borrowing from 70s rock, classic metal and the early speed/thrash era. Their riff-sense and colorful phrasing are every bit as important to Tower‘s success as Linden’s titanic vocal assault and I love what these guys come up with over the course of Shock. This is a talented crew and they have magic happening in the songwriting department.

Shock to the System is a chrome-plated anvil to the dome from out of left field and it’s fast becoming one of my favorite albums of the year. It’s dirty, ugly, catchy, and most importantly, fun as Hades. Tower is angry, hungry, and driven. If they can hold onto that fire, the world will be their oyster. New York City needs more bands like this, and you need the kind of shocks that Tower want to provide. Hear this ASAP.


Rating: 4.0/5.0
DR: 5 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Cruz Del Sur
Websites: towernyc.bandcamp.com/releases | facebook.com/towernyc
Releases Worldwide: November 19th, 2021

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