Random Records with Steve O
Black Tower - The Secret FireSteve O - June 5, 2015
So you’re all familiar with the band Crusades, right? Their last record, Perhaps You Deliver this Judgement with Greater Fear than I Receive It, earned a place on our initial Best of the Year Bracket. Brilliant atheistic tomes, repeated enough that it was impossible they would not be stuck in your head, with some of the most recognizable vocals in punk. It should come as no surprise then, that some of the same individuals responsible for those vocals showed up again the following year, placing the Creeps record, Eulogies, into our Bracket. So, that brings us to this year. Let’s make it a hat trick for these Ottawa natives.
Skottie Lobotomy, present on both Crusades and the Creeps, brings fellow Crusades member Dave Williams into this year’s entry, Black Tower and their debut record The Secret Fire. Joining them is the forceful and dominant voice of Erin Ewing, who also played with Lobotomy in the Visitors. Her voice carries the lead here; with her melodic tones meshing well with Lobotomy’s distinctive timbre. But her varied vocal cords command this record in its darker, heavier, and more evil sounding moments as well. She veers into black metal-esque shrieks masterfully, demanding your undivided attention, to hear of the horrors she has to tell us. “Unquiet souls trapped in the black / A call from the dark; they’ve broken the pact.” Dark stuff indeed.
Given the atheist philosophy that Crusades waxes so poetically, you would expect something similar here, especially for a record that sounds so much darker and heavier than Crusades’ take on melodic punk. And there’s a song called “The Dark Lord.” We have to be hailing Satan here, correct? Wrong you are. Our Dark Lord in this case is Sauron. Black Tower, instead of tackling the anti-Christian musings of a Sixteenth Century philosopher as Crusades did on their latest record, take the listener into Tolkien’s world. “Death March” tells of the dwarfs reclaiming their home “under the lonely mountain.” That should be fresh in your mind with the Hobbit movies having been released so recently. “The Dragon Flies” alludes to Smaug’s coming to Erebor, while “Riders” and “Shadows” both bring the Nazgûl to mind.
Lots of metal bands have done wonderful things with Tolkien’s imagery (Blind Guardian and Summoning, I’m looking at you), but few rooted in punk have treaded that same path. And while Black Tower are rooted in punk, there’s definitely more here. Elements of black metal work their way in and the influence of more traditional metal bands like Iron Maiden are found here too. All of that mixes to create a powerful, memorable, and unique sounding record. In a crowded year (thus far), Black Tower ensures that the city of Ottawa will once again have a contender placed in the Best of the Year Bracket. Head over here to give Black Tower a listen.