Aeolian Empire – Out Now.

Two years after they were first formed, Portland-based Sludge/Stoner/Doom metal merchants Towers had to face a massive problem, the departure of their then guitarist. How did they decide to deal with this?

In a way that most bands wouldn’t – by relegating themselves, that is, into a power-duo and supplementing the loss of the electric guitar with layers upon layers of heavily distorted and fairly unnerving bass frequencies.

Sometimes, problems seem to work more to the benefit of a band rather than against it, as clearly suggested by the four unusual compositions that can be found on the band’s aptly named second studio album, “II”.

I am not going to lie to you: listening to “II” can be quite a task if you’re not in the right mood.

This an album that lacks all sense of traditional compositional structuring, presenting instead a variety of different ideas under a wall of different sounds whose aim in to inflict an aural assault on the unsuspecting listener, not too different from drone legends Sunn O))). Contrary to Stephen O’Malley’s outfit, however, the guys in Tower do involve vocals in their recordings, though slightly less prominent in the overall mix.

Opening track “Hell” consists of twelve minutes of heavily distorted atmospheric bass tunes to which cymbals play a purely supporting role and which share the spotlight with Rick Duncan’s aggressive/melodic Punk-influenced and somewhat disturbing vocals in very few instances.

Far more straightforward in tempo, “The Door At The End Of The Hall” still features an unusual singing approach which increased my interest for this composition. My favourite song of the album, however, is “The Chosen”, since it manages to incorporate all the “evil” sounds and eeriness that both its predecessors couldn’t.

Mesmerising bass drones? Check. Choral, black mass like chants? Check. Simple but solid drum beats which further enhance the dark mood of the song? Check. It is a shame that the album had to finish with the fourteen minute “In The Room Of Misfortune” which, though featuring an interesting collection of different themes and ideas, drags on for longer than needed, thus undermining the great feel and energy achieved by its predecessor.

So what type of music fan will find “II” most appealing? Which is the album’s intended audience?

Well, if you like traditional song structures with catchy, memorable melodies then I strongly suggest that you steer away from this one.

If, on the other hand, you really enjoy all things doom & gloom and cannot even begin to contemplate not listening to the likes of Swans, Sunn O))) and early Electric Wizard then you need look no further.

John Stefanis

Rating: *** (3.0/5.0)


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