New Keepers Of The Water Towers – Cosmic Child
Reviewed by Mark Nagy
Hounding for little known material seriously turns up some awesome stuff. My latest find is Sweden’s New Keepers Of The Water Towers, which, as well as winning the award for the worst band name I’ve heard this year, is also one of the best progressive albums I’ve heard on the year. I hesitate to call it progressive metal, risking all sorts of unfair comparisons, so I’ll start by specifying that it’s primarily progressive doom with strong psychedelic leanings, as well as enough acoustic guitar work to make Gothenburg death metal proud. Other apt comparisons might be Opeth between Ghost Reveries and Damnation, or even Black Sabbath in a few places.
The album has only 6 songs, which for this style is an odd sort of credibility. The album kicks off with “The Great Leveller”, which is ominous and slow, with a massive foreboding chorus set to a slow march. The vocal layering is haunting, ala the ‘zombie choruses’ that Josh Homme was so fond of in Queens Of The Stone Age before he gave up on making good music. A little past halfway into the first song, the process jerks into a blazing, post rock-inspired guitar solo. The rhythm section maintains a somber dredge, and contrasted against each other, it’s positively brilliant.
That very contrast is what makes Cosmic Child shine so bright. The contrast between the slow and fast passages transitions with poetic beauty. These guys obviously have some serious chops, and might not have trouble keeping up with thrash metal’s finest. They have mastered the art form of rationing that speed at just the right amount to keep you completely engaged during the slower passages, all the while excited for the next moment the album goes into the next gear.
On top of this strength within songs, the album is also structured with great precision. The first song, “The Great Leveller”, is probably the most subtle of the late game adrenaline rushes that NKOTWT are capable of. “Visions Of Death” is stronger, and “Pyre For The Red Sage” comes with an absolute rush. These first three songs serve as a template for the album as well, which builds, drops, hits a musical crescendo, and then calms down. The entire flow of the album takes the form of its main songs, and that, for me, is a huge bonus.
On the potentially negative side of things, pretty much the entire payoff of the album hinges on your enjoyment of the penultimate track, “Lapse”. It’s where, in an artistic sense, all the album’s ideas come together, and it’s also the band’s most ambitious outing. The aforementioned buildup to crescendo is a great tactic, but “Lapse” is more than 12 minutes long, and takes all of 9 to get to the really meaty stuff. That’s not to discount their slower material as pointless, since it occupies the majority of the album. Still, to stretch out “Lapse” as far as it went is a huge gamble. For me, it pays off, but I can see this being a very divisive point for listeners.
That all being said, I’ve got to emphatically recommend hearing this album. It’s one of the more interesting albums I’ve heard on the year, and it’s certainly stuck with me far past its first few listens. For those familiar with New Keepers Of The Water Towers’ earlier output, this sounds like a *huge* improvement over what’s available on past releases. Harsh vocals are gone: replaced mostly by the spacey, rotary, amp-like effect that I last mentioned with Ozzy on “Planet Caravan”. After hearing this, going back to previous albums sounds like an entirely different (And far less qualified and talented) band. That being said, as a complete album, this really should serve as something of a benchmark for pacing, and for commitment to vision.
4.25 // 5