|Genre||Melodic Progressive Metal|
|Release Date||23 August 2019|
Ivory Tower is no stranger to the prog scene. While they’ve only put out four albums since the late 90s, their sound has made plenty of changes, from power prog to nu metal. In their fifth album to date, Stronger, the band shows that the eight years since their previous album (which was, in all honesty, a fucking mess) have been dedicated to evolving their sound for the better. It’s full of super sick riffs, exciting songwriting, and vengeful melodies that often carry classic Queensryche vibes.
The choruses are one of the stronger aspects of the album; they’re emotive, memorable, and actually really creative. Like the album itself, they’re intense and aggressive, not often making it to upbeat or hopeful, unless it’s with a bittersweet overtone.
Driving the melodies is Dirk Meyer, who is offering his vocals to an Ivory Tower album for the first time. He’s not the only newcomer, though; Frank Fasold is the band’s new keyboardist, and there’s also returning drummer Thorsten Thrunke, who was absent from the previous two albums. This revitalized lineup delivers a strong performance and is probably mostly (if not entirely) the reason for how fresh Stronger sounds.
The weakest point of the album is ‘In Me’. The melodies whiny and uninspired, and the track almost seems like a leftover from IV. The solo is fucking awesome, though, so it isn’t entirely irredeemable. Fortunately, ‘In Me’ is far enough into the album that it doesn’t do much to damage any expectations but far enough from the end that, if it did give you a really bad taste in your mouth, there’s a lot to make up for it. Aside from that, the closer could be better, but it isn’t necessarily bad, and there are a couple other points in the album that carry on for just too long.
On the flip side, though, there are plenty of things to enjoy. As I mentioned before, there are the choruses and riffs. There’s also a ton of variety, with the heavy metal/hard rock banger ‘Life Will Fade’, which is one of my favourites on the record, the deeply-aggressive ‘Loser’, and even an acoustic interlude track that all help to make the album rounded and dynamic. Ivory Tower’s varying use of synths is damn-near perfect, and the expressive drumming never fails to impress. Needless to say, the guitar solos are equally as impressive.
Personally, next to ‘Life Will Fade’, ‘Slave’ and ‘The Wolves You’ve Let In’ stand as my favourite tracks. The former is driven by heavy synths and has a floating chorus. The latter is a seven-minute ballad with an absolutely killer climax and solo. I think it would have been a great end to the album, too, but I digress.
Stronger isn’t without its flaws, but everything else is so good that they don’t matter much in the grand scheme of the album. Clocking in at more than seventy-five minutes, it’s also a pretty long run, but there are enough gems within that it’s more than worth at least one listen. When all is considered, Ivory Tower’s latest effort is a damn-good comeback.
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