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I was compelled to write this review in order to dissipate the myth around this talented act who were labelled as Watchtower clones and copycats in the distant past. Many sources on the Net have made comparisons between these two bands, always in the favour of the much vaunted Americans, while Sieges Even have always been considered the imitators, the "apes". The sad truth is that most of those "journalists", or whatever they claim themselves to be, haven't even bothered to give this album a listen, preferring instead to repeat what some "higher authorities" have written/said on the case before them. And this is sad...
The truth is that this grandiose album is way superior to the Americans' "Control & Resistance", which has also been claimed as its "godfather" (the song "The Life Cycles", which has reportedly given the name of the album reviewed here), and every bit as good as their, groundbreaking indeed (I can not possibly disagree with all of you out there), first effort. So I'm asking how this could have been possible having in mind the one-year gap between the two releases, with "Life Cycle" having been released quite a few months before "Control & Resistance"? Or have we been led to believe all these years that the American act had sent their demos to their German colleagues for reviews and a subsequent approval, some time in 1988, from where the Germans may have seen the song-title (The Life Cycles", that is), and have eventually decided to borrow it for the title of their upcoming album? I believe everyone sees clearly how preposterous such a theory is...
Or has it been the other way around? Who is the real "godfather" here? Those who are willing to invest time and effort into such an investigation, are more than welcome to try... here lies before them one of the biggest mysteries in the history of thrash metal. To be continued...
But let's get to the music, folks. It's an undeniable fact that both bands belong to the progressive thrash metal field, which is a fairly wide area with multiple nuances and shades going into many various directions. In the same train of thought we could also pick Mekong Delta and Toxik, and label them as very close soundalikes, or any other two acts. Because this is as far as the resemblance between Sieges Even and Watchtower reaches. Any thrash metal fan with a good ear for the music he loves would distinguish multiple differences in both the musical execution and the song-structures to the point that this would possibly be the last pair to be picked when it comes to comparing progressive thrash metal bands.
Sieges Even are by far the more aggressive act of the two, with a frequent tendency to provide the necessary headbanging rhythms to alleviate the complex picture (as compared to "Control & Resistance", which is the picking point here). Whether it would be the choppy speed/thrashy crescendos on "Repression And Resistance"; or the straight neck-spraining mid-break on "Apocalyptic Disposition"; or the steel galloping riffs on "The Roads To Iliad"; or the labyrinthine, virtuoso aggression on "David": it all shows a clear understanding on the side of the musicians as to what a thrash metal recording should be: never to lose its iron-clad character regardless of how much complexity "roams" around; something which "Control & Resistance" sadly lacks at times.
The German band also comes from a different point of execution/approach: Watchtower build their music around elaborate song-patterns, with the riffage and its layout coming secondary (which, fortunately, was not the case on "Energetic Disassembly"). Sieges Even think about the riff first, about its qualities and effect on the listener; the song-structures taking care of themselves somewhat at some later stage. Some of you may argue that this may not be the case having in mind the longer compositions on "Life Cycle" ("David" & "Straggler from Atlantis", above all), but after a more careful listen one would notice that these songs are several fragments stitched together, which can work separately as effectively as when wrapped in the bigger/longer formula.
One can easily separate "Straggler from Atlantis", for example, into three smaller tracks, and their impact would be as big as the aforementioned opus. In this sense The Germans share quite a bit with the pure technical thrash metal acts, with their concentration on independent riff-patterns, rather than larger-than-life musical landscapes where one can get lost easily, never to be found. And in this sense they also come quite close to Deathrow's "Deception Ignored", which is also another great example of "progressive thrash for the masses".
Any attempt to split a longer song from "Control & Resistance" would lead to bits of stylish music here and there without any coherent motif to hold them together, simply because the Americans' agenda is to engage the listener into the big picture, rather than making him gape in wonder at every second riff around the corner. So it's up to the fan to choose which approach would better fit his tastes... The only more obvious similarity between the two works is perhaps in the vocal department: Franz Herde's emotional, high-strung wails are quite reminiscent of Alan Tecchio's attached melodic antics.
There's no need in going into any further analysis of this great effort. I believe that every self-respected metal fan has had it, in a very secure place, in his/her collection for a long time. My intention here is not to denounce Watchtower's effort: it's actually a fairly good piece of music. It's by all means not as good as the debut, but it stood well on the scene back at the time, in the strong company of other good albums from the same sphere (Annihilator's "Alice in Hell"; Nasty Savage's "Penetretion Point"; Helstar's "Nosferatu"). The purpose of this review, or rather an observation, is:
1) To give this magnificent album (Life Cycle, that is) its worth as one of the finest works of progressive thrash metal ever produced.
2) To clear it of all false accusations of being a copy of an album with which it has not much to do anyway.
Sieges Even never bothered to top it up, which would have been next to impossible, and they switched onto a much more melodic progressive brand of metal soon after, leaving this piece of art crowning their career all these years. Few have tried, but much fewer have managed to capture the manic complexity of this album. Well, as a finishing touch: if we really have to choose a soundalike from the old-timers, it would probably be a thrashy version of Fates Warning’s “Awaken the Guardian”, with a strong similarity between the two bands in the vocal department as well. Am I setting the scene for a new dispute here... Again, you’re more than welcome.