Tower – Shock To The System Review

[Cover artwork by Morgan Jesse Lappin]

“The guitar. It was the key, the sword in the stone, the staff of righteousness. As my father christened it, ‘that fucking guitar’,” remarked Bruce Springsteen during his six-month Broadway residency and quoted inside a May 5th, 2018 article from The Guardian with the grim headline, End of the Guitar? Gibson Bankruptcy Fuels Fears for Future.

That headline was, as is all too often the case in the modern age, a sensationalist / click-bait trap, as part of said article’s purpose was also ostensibly intended to remind the population that no level of auto-tuned, electro-infused, candy-coated pop will ever actually bury the hugely mighty guitar—an instrument with roots dating back to a time when our species was mellifluously plucking animal guts like heroes long before spotlights were even close to being invented. In essence, to think anything beyond a very sudden and inexplicable deletion of music’s existence outright could ever “kill the guitar” is categorically ludicrous, and that is, as they say, fucking that.

However…

What that Guardian article actually did manage to spotlight, however, was two clear concerns: 1) The unfortunate truth that one of the biggest manufacturers of guitars in the business, Gibson, totally boffed the pooch by not staying true to their roots—something they have since begun to slowly amend upon starting things back up again in Nashville, and 2) In a world where The Guardian submits an article concerning a dearth of guitar in popular music that includes a closing segment called “Ed Sheeran to the rescue,” we may very well be utterly screwed as a species.

HOWEVER…

As anyone with a penchant for the hard & heavy knows, there are mystical domains bristling with electric magick thriving beneath the veneer and just waiting to be loosed upon humankind—all one need do is commit to a little digging. You know, a similar sort of digging that’s necessary to reveal bright treasures in most every artistic realm.

Accordingly…

Release date: November 12, 2021. Label: Cruz Del Sur.
The band Tower, from the city of New York, in the state of New York, in the world of New York, is largely concerned with guitars—big, loud guitars that remind us of a time when Guitar Gods were revered to a point where even celestial radio (what’s that??) devoted hundreds of thousands of Two-For-Tuesdays to the likes of Sabbath, Cheap Trick, AC/DC, UFO, Scorps, RUSH, Thin Lizzy, etc. ad infinitum. Such armored veneration toward all things six-stringed, flying V’d, multi-necked and SG’d became even more emphatic with the arrival of the quickly developing NWOBHM scene of the early and mid 80s, and it is precisely there, at the blaring crossroads of those two kingdoms, where Tower and Shock to the System (the band’s sophomore full-length) wield their galvanic might.

Hey! I have more great news…

As great as them loud, raw and charged guitars are throughout these distinctly tidy 39 minutes, the band’s not-at-ALL secret weapon is delivered at the behest of powerhouse vocalist Sarabeth Linden. If you’re interested in someone with all the snarling fire of Joan Jett or Janis Joplin, welded to the force of Big Mama Thornton or Ronnie James Dio, Sarabeth is your first pick on the playground, bub. She BOOMS from start to finish on Shock to the System (apart from the short instrumental “Metatron”), and at no point does she leave the listener wondering if these songs wouldn’t indeed whoop your ass with tenfold intent live from the stage.

“Blood Moon” kicks out of the gate with a rebellious 70s-styled vigor that could land it on the soundtrack to a film like Over the Edge (“A kid who tells on another kid… Is a dead kid”), but the added charge once Linden belts out the album’s first “WHOOOOAAA YEAAAAAHHH” tacks the perfect supplement of fiery Hellion / Screams in the Night to the formula.

There are plenty other cards up Tower’s sleeve here, too. Sure, it’s all forged in the fires of hard rock and nascent metal, but we get some blazin’ GnR / Slash in the corners of “Running Out of Time” and throughout the powder keg that is “The Black Rose,” infusions of Fastway / Trick or Treat in a great tune like “Lay Down the Law, and even bits of gritty doom akin to Pagan Altar in the threadings of the wonderfully grim “Prince of Darkness.”

Crux of the matter: Shock to the System puts on a clinic for anyone interested in heavy metal that remembers how to rock and does so loud enough to crack a skull in half. The fact that Tower also just so happens to retain the services of one of the more powerful voices you’ll hear on a record in 2021 is gravy on the taters, baby. Buy it for yourself, buy it for your loved ones, buy it for anyone in need of a reminder that the guitar will always be there for us when things get (or need to get) heavy.

Posted by Captain

Last Rites Co-Owner; Senior Editor; Handsome & Interesting Man; Just get evil all the time.

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