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WATCHTOWER Concepts Of Math: Book One

By Peter Atkinson, Contributor
Monday, October 24, 2016 @ 11:30 AM

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Concepts Of Math: Book One

Prosthetic Records

At this stage, WATCHTOWER is arguably more myth – or perhaps legend - than band. Since it helped pave the way for progressive metal with 1989's landmark Control And Resistance, the band has existed mostly in the shadows, cited often as a revered and pioneering influence, but rarely seen.

After splitting in 1990, WATCHTOWER has attempted several reunions, but they rarely lasted long – or were that productive, aside from an occasional show or festival appearance. And while there have been rumors of a third album, apparently called Mathematics, floated since 2000 – first with original vocalist Jason McMaster, then with his replacement Alan Tecchio replacing him once again – nothing came of it for more than a decade. And when new music eventually did trickle it out, in 2010 with the single “The Size Of Matter”, Tecchio split again. Then, last year, more new music, this time three songs, with Tecchio once again on vocals.

All that has led up to this, the EP Concepts Of Math: Book One, which compiles the earlier tracks and adds the monumental new song “Mathematica Calculis”. Where this will lead, what this means for a full Mathematics album and how much more visible it will make the band, God only knows. If nothing else, though, there's now roughly half an album's worth of new – or at least newish – material all in one place for fans to get their mitts on, or for curious newbies to hear what all the fuss has been about over this band for 30-some years.

There is no demonstrable difference in WATCHTOWER’s approach on Concepts Of Math than on its earlier material – save that it sounds better thanks to modern recording conventions and the chops of the band’s core members, guitarist Ron Jarzombek, bassist Doug Keyser and drummer Rick Colaluca, have improved with age. Yet the band’s sound has aged fairly well – especially given that a lot of acts have essentially been playing catchup to what WATCHTOWER did with Control And Resistance and 1985’s Energetic Disassembly in the decades since. So there was no need for a radical overhaul, which could have turned out rather awkward or contrived anyway.

WATCHTOWER’s knack for taking standard thrash, turning the arrangements inside out then lathering on technical sophistication, all while still retaining an element of catchiness, remains with the Concepts Of Math material. For the most part anyway, the EP does conclude with the aforementioned “Mathematica Calculis”, a nearly 10-minute behemoth that is dogged by many of the trappings of similar prog-metal magnum opuses (opusi?) – instrumental indulgence, unwieldy construction and a grandiloquent storyline that comes off sounding kinda hokey as Tecchio blathers on about mathematical concepts like a tech-metal Sheldon Cooper, for those familiar with the nerd-centric TV show The Big Bang Theory. “Mathematica Calculis” essentially carries forward, or expands, on “the numerical truths” explored in the similarly dizzying, but easier to digest “The Size Of Matter”. “Arguments Against Design” and “Technology Inaction” thankfully tackle different subjects altogether – although still sticking with the world of science, in these cases to rail against “intelligent design” and detail the moral and ethical quandaries posed by technological advances. So pretty heady stuff, to be sure.

“M-Theory Overture” though, kicks things off with an instrumental flourish that shows the band members' musical ambitions have grown with their prowess. It's a whirlwind of flashy guitar licks and solos, fluid bass runs and athletic drumming, yet tightly wound into a tidy 3:38 package that makes for an enticing start. “Arguments Against Design” rides Keyser and Colaluca's agile rhythms while Jarzombek adds enough hooks and punchy riffs to complement Tecchio's vocals and give the song some bite.

“Technology Inaction” and “The Size Of Matter” take a similar approach and manage to be at the same time both inviting and quite challenging – especially “Inaction” where Tecchio seems breathlessly trying to follow the bob-and-weave flow of the song with his vocals. But he manages to keep pace, if barely, and the song comes out a winner in the end.

And, ultimately, that is true of the of the EP as a whole. The performances here are really quite incredible, yet rarely seem showy or self-reverential, even if some of the compositions go a bit – or a lot – overboard. And WATCHTOWER has managed to retain its sound from back in the day – despite its long stretches of seeming inactively - while making it feel vibrant and reasonably fresh all these years later, which is downright astonishing. But best to enjoy it while you can, since who knows when, or if, there will be new material down the road – much less a full Mathematics album.

3.0 Out Of 5.0

Grab your copy of Concepts Of Math: Book One in the KNAC.COM More Store right HERE.

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