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This will probably be the first question that will pop in your head while listening to the first song of this album. That question will be even more natural with subsequent songs on the rest of the release.
Coming from the Norwegian coast of Bergen most known for its black metal scene, comes this band with a very strange approach to music. The first name of the band was Dead Rose Garden back in 1993, after a change of band members, they change their approach and their name to Vulture Industries and aimed for something quite unlike anything out there.
The sound is in the same vein as Akphaezya or Unexpect, but as any band that possess this style of music, each of them have their own execution of it and the result always differ greatly from all of them. Their execution is in fact quite close to traditional gothic music and possess a heavy theatrical emphasis. Their sound is also way more accessible than the other bands in the style while still having his own distinctive aspects.
The first song alternates between symphonic metal and lounge and possesses a gothic passage in the bridge section of the song. The third song named "The Hound" is only a great slow gothic track with an emphasis on a movie like atmosphere. The sixth song named "A Knife Between Us" is again in that strange kind of gothic rock metal that I can't find a easy way to describe. I could continue with the description of the other songs, but we will still be quite far from the complexity of Akphaezya or Unexpect that were changing styles at a glimpse and without warning, it is nonetheless also refreshing because it is more easier to grasp what's going on in the songs.
There is one reason why I'm not too fond of this album yet, it's because I don't really feel anything while listening to it and the variety while still being present is a bit underwhelming. Some songs just sound a bit too much like each other even if the overall experience given by the album is still giving something of interest. The sound of this band is unique and I'm sure I haven't heard anything like that before and that has to be the most redeeming quality of this album and probably the band itself. What is sure is that the production aspect of this album is very well done as every instrument are well integrated and the mixing is probably giving that strange mood the band were going for.
In the end, fans of avant-garde or gothic metal/rock should try this release and judge by themselves if the sound is made for them.
Vulture Industries is what progressive-era Enslaved might sound like if they were drawn from the frozen reaches and plunged headfirst into a nightmarish carnival. I hate to start a review off sounding like some overzealous label sales pitcher, but Vulture Industries really are well-deserving of the praise and excitement. Although they seem to have been something of a kept-secret within avant-garde and progressive metal circles, The Tower demonstrates inventiveness and creative drive enough to warrant immediate attention. While their stylistic approach towards the avant-metal format has been heard in bands before, Vulture Industries' vibrant manner of presenting and executing their work is largely what makes their third album such a gem. In short, it's prog metal with a depth of personality that's hard to come by in the genre these days.
It's surprisingly common for bands labelled as 'avant-garde metal' to adopt some sort of carnivalesque or circus-tone in their style. Vulture Industries is gleefully guilty in this regard. There is a playful kick in the step of their performance; even when the composition may oftimes connote a darker atmosphere, it's difficult not to imagine the band playing all the while each wearing a maniacal grin. With a saxophone and harmonica among the instruments used here, Vulture Industries joins the school of avant-metal that encourages the use of unconventional instrument to reinforce the adventurous vibe of the music. While the band's playful brand of eccentricity has plenty of closely residing neighbours- their fellow Norwegians in Solefald and Arcturus both come to mind- Vulture Industries sell the approach thanks to the skill with which they've compiled all of these disparate sounds. There is a conscious recognition of their country's black metal tradition heard in the instrumentation of The Tower and "The Hound". "The Dead Won't Mind" sounds like a vocal jazz ballad sucked through the jet intake of a Tim Burton film. The riffs on "Blood on the Trail" could pass for something from Mastodon or even High on Fire. "Lost Among Liars" has all of the atmosphere and sadness of a late-era Katatonia record. When you hear it on the album itself, these seemingly vast shifts in tone and style don't feel contrived or consciously propped against one another for the sake of variety or so-called avant-garde genre exploration; contrary to many of the bands working in this particular field, when Vulture Industries plays with these styles and switches between them, they truly make the sound their own. It's not just the intent to be experimental, but the follow-through and resounding success of it that have made The Tower such an engaging listen.
The Tower starts off with one of its highest moments, a title track that has been earning its fair due of compliments and praise around the web. Instantly kicking off with conviction and a driving intensity, Enslaved are the first band that comes to mind, although Bjørnar Nilsen's operatic delivery soon dispels any wholehearted comparison between the two. "The Hound" is another track that continues to impress me, a mini-epic that does take a while to pick up from its initial plod, but pays off with an incredible, almost cinematic finish. "Lost Among Liars" is a gorgeous finish to the album, brilliantly taking some of the rhythms and basic structure of the first track, and refitting them for an atmospheric, melancholic closer. The link between "Lost Among Liars" and the title track give the album a strong sense of completion. In spite of this, the second half of the album is markedly less impressive than the first. While motifs are understandably repeated throughout for the sake of coherence and a satisfying structure, "A Knife Between Us", "The Pulse of Bliss", and "Sleepwalkers" don't seem to find a real personality of their own, instead drawing on the atmosphere and ideas of tracks past. "A Knife Between Us" in particular seems to want to be "The Hound" quite insistently. The music remains enjoyable and interesting, but seeing as how the first five tracks each had a unique feel to them, I'm left feeling the slightest bit disappointed by Vulture Industries; even taking into account its existing excellence, there was potential here for The Tower to have been something more.
I don't believe any discussion of The Tower or Vulture Industries' music as a whole could go without some reference to the vocal work. Bjørnar Nilsen's voice falls somewhere between Mike Patton's (of Mr. Bungle) nightmarishly varied delivery with a quasi-operatic croon, somewhat in the vein of Scott Walker. Much of Vulture Industries' personality comes through in Nilsen's voice, and though The Tower is home to several particularly 'weird' musical passages, the vocal delivery is far and away the most left-field element Vulture Industries bring to the table. While the instrumentation is fairly accessible by avant-metal standards, I trust that Nilsen's voice will prove to rekindle the love-or-hate dynamic with many listeners, or at least make for something of an acquired taste. Whatever the case, the man has a voice with power that could be heard a mile away, and while there are a few moments on the album where I feel like some of the motional potential has been robbed in exchange for added eccentricity, Nilsen's vocal performance here stands as being one of the best I've heard in the past year.
With such a gorgeous denouement in "Lost Among Liars" to cap off the album and recall its beginning, a bonus track may not have been altogether necessary or beneficial. Even so, "Blood Don't Eliogabalus" is a fascinating piece, and feels like a self-contained experience of its own. While avant-garde metal aficionados may draw countless comparisons between Vulture Industries and other artists, one band I imagine would be scarcely mentioned would be Devil Doll. A perennial gem in experimental rock, Devil Doll's music is challenging, creepy and overtly disturbing. Vulture Industries might sound like a sunny midday family picnic when compared to Devil Doll's horror film-inspired ambiance, but after listening to this not-so-subtle tribute to the band, it's easy to see now where some of Vulture Industries' inspiration has derived. Although I might not have so easily identified the influence on their sound otherwise, the bonus track is a near-perfect replication of Devil Doll's macabre style, with enough of Vulture Industries' own, less esoteric signature to bridge the two bands' sounds together. Bjørnar Nilsen's vocals in particular do an incredible job reflecting the enigmatic "Mr. Doctor's" offhand sprechsegang. The composition itself has a ton of dynamic and several interesting passages in spite of a rather lacklustre (if not entirely absent) song structure, but makes for an engaging addendum to the rest of The Tower. If approached as a part of the album proper however, "Blood Don't Eliogabalus" does serve to rob the album of its satisfying full-circle conclusion with "Lost Among Liars", so it may be most suitable to hear the bonus after the rest of the album's settled down from a few listens.
It is my hope that, now that The Tower has seen Vulture Industries signed finally to Season of Mist, the band will finally receive some of the recognition and fanbase they justly deserve. The Tower is, as the title serves to imply, a looming, ominous album. They have struck a fine balance between the accessible, the avant-garde, the heavy and the melodic. In a broader sense, Vulture Industries may provide listeners who are yet to have found a way of 'getting into' avant-metal with a bold, enjoyable gateway. The talent and skill necessary for greater things is here in droves; I can only imagine Vulture Industries will continue to excel in greater quotients from this point forward.
Once again, after a 3 year break, members of avant garde quartet Vulture Industries have returned to grave us with their third effort, titled simply "The Tower". This time around the sound seems to be of less somber and deject resonations, but builds upon the motifs of nostalgia and melancholy, and also worth noticing it is palpably less heavy, but still heavy enough to suit even the most picky and petty of metal fans. And while the band's progression is still evident, as with many bands they've settled with a more comfortable and probed sound, not that it strips this album of any quality.
The songs are more brooding and soothing and speed is kept mostly at mid-pace, more often slowing down than speeding up, often recycling and reiterating a singular phrase accompanied by backing instrumentation consisting of a myriad of keyboards, backing vocals, and effects. The black metal element is further reduced and owes only to a couple of shrieks and more frantic, furious guitar cords that will jangle every now and then, but aside from that is kept at a very minimum. The backbone still consists of almost rock-ish ambiance coupled with operatic, emotive vocal manifestations. The musicianship is proficient, professional, and piercing with honesty and dedication, which is hard to come by in the newer history of metal. As the album revolves around more drudging and dragging melodies and instrumentation, it is best listened to in its entirety and consecutively, as song arrangement and track listing has been mastered with adequacy and aptitude.
The lyrics revolve around inner feelings of desperation, desolation, and destitution that we all endure and are suitable for a genre priding itself with occult ideologies, pagan/ancient traditions, and the closest match of all, depressive/suicidal experiences.
If I have to extract a single track from this fine portfolio of agony and grief, it would be the title track with its glorious melody that glitters with hope and upheaval. Then there's the more epic grandeur of "The Hound" , the sheer emotional outpouring of "A Knife Between Us", and the percussive, bass heavy "Lost Among Liars" finale.
Again, Vulture Industries prove perfectly apt to not disappoint, as what we have here is cordial, poignant, and visceral renditions of human psyche branded with songwriting brilliancy and bestowed with technical finesse. These guys know how to balance the sound to get the ultimate median between aggression, emotion, originality, and dexterity. It's bands like these that cross-sect and intermarry the genre's most significant and obvious trademarks and distinctions, treading many different expressive routes, but are confined to none. Recommended 9/10.