Ivory Tower – IV
Sometimes on the never-ending search for new music, you’ll unintentionally come across an album that makes you stop and think about whether or not it’s worth enduring such torture to eventually find the good stuff. Obviously, in my case the answer will always be yes, because I am quite optimistic most of the time and am capable of enjoying something even if it there’s some obvious flaws. So whenever I have to call out a band for making a bad album, you know something has gone terribly wrong. It’s also no surprise that I’m also one of those people to whom writing a negative review just doesn’t come naturally. With that being said, if I’m going to rave about the good stuff, I guess I need to learn to rant (coherently) about the bad stuff, and so here we go.
Ivory Tower have been around for almost a decade and a half, so they should probably have a good idea of what they wish to as musicians at this point. Sadly, I don’t think their latest album IV, is the best indication of a band progressing in the right direction and growing over the years. In fact, it’s the sign of a band unhappy with how they started out, looking to expand their sound to be more modern, and completely falling flat. I’ve heard a little bit from their early works, and it sounded like some fairly promising Progressive Metal very much in the vein of Dream Theater. It wasn’t original, and the vocals were pretty weak, but at least the band was honest in playing the kind of music I’m sure they were meant to play.
Sadly, the same can not be said for this latest effort. Warning bells went off in my head right from the start, as instead of the traditional sound I was expecting, “Rape of Time” (seriously, what a name) wastes little time bringing the noise with some heavy riffs. The problem is, a lot of these “riffs”, which make up the majority of the album, are little more than a couple of basic chords played constantly, usually for the duration of a verse. The worst example is on the very next track “Expelled From Heaven”, where the verses are actually painful for me to get through. Over half of the songs are similar, with a clearly forced attempt at being a “true” Metal band, and the band never comes close to doing this convincingly. Adding insult to injury is the voice of Andre Fischer. He has a naturally irritating tone to his voice, so even when singing normally he is often too much for me to handle. But on the aforementioned “Expelled From Heaven” he even adds in some kind of weird screams that somewhat remind me of Burton C. Bell from Fear Factory, except here they are out of place and he is nowhere near as talented. And yet, I’m not even sure if that’s my least favorite part of the album, because on “Wailing Wall” there is a really bad lead in to the chorus, where these same screams are brought back, but poorly mixed in with some fast clean vocals. Not every song is disastrous, but a lot of the time the music is simply boring.
In case the album wasn’t already frustrating enough, there are brief hints of what the band is capable of scattered throughout, though finding them can be hard as there’s usually something holding even those parts back. The acoustic ballad “Loss” would be pretty nice if Andre didn’t completely butcher it. He’s not even irritating this time, he just tries to sound like a generic Alt-Rock singer. Well, he definitely succeeds, but he problem is that style of singing is most often extremely boring, and this is no exception. “What If” is similarly a listenable song, except for the usual vocals failings and a couple of very unnecessary power chords that drag it down. “We’re Lost” starts off good, only to become a total mess as it moves on, with the usual atrocious guitar work. Lastly, there are some good choruses, especially on “ Expelled From Heaven” and “Wailing Wall” but with the terrible parts I already described, these fail to save their respective songs. Even some attempts at being melodic fall flat, as the chorus of “Catatonic Sleep” in particular is quite pathetic, and it seems to take up over half of the song. There is one good track, “Child of Burden”, and even the vocals there aren’t too shabby/ So what could possibly ruin it? The song is less than two minutes! Yeah, if the highlight of the album is that short, it’s a sure sign disaster has struck.
I still think the band could be good if they ditched their singer, or more realistically, if they went back to their old sound, as it was certainly more enjoyable than this. If they continue to go in this direction, I doubt many people will care about them, nor should they. Sometimes, it’s best to stick to what you’re actually good at.
Travis Green’s Rating: 1.75 out of 5