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In the 1980's, thrash was a-boomin'. As a style that already values technicality as one of its central tenants, it can be expected that the progressive variant of this would be something to behold. 1989 in particular was an incredible year for thrash metal, with two of my favourite albums of that style being released. The greater of the two was Voivod's 'Nothingface', an inventive beast of a record that felt miles ahead of most everything else coming out at that time. In fact, one of the only other albums in metal that year that hoped to compete was my second pick, Watchtower's seminal release 'Control & Resistance.' After a major critical success with their debut 'Energetic Disassembly', this colossal Texas outfit struck harder than ever with their sophomore. 'Control & Resistance' picks up what Rush started, and sets it on fire, screaming. This is without a doubt, an album that still does not receive the wide attention and love it deserves.
Watchtower guitarist Ron Jarzombek is the key here, the man through whom I discovered this album. Described as the 'father of technical metal', that label certainly is not far off, if it isn't already spot on. Although thrash is generally fast and technical as it is, there is a much greater sense of tightness and calibration to Jarzombek's shredding and riff work, then say- a band like Slayer. The music is certainly thrash, but there is much more nuance to the performance than the genre is generally used to. In particular, the vocals of Alan Techhio (a fitting name, eh?) hit most every other vocalist in thrash out of the ballpark; his vocals attack the same falsetto range as Geddy Lee, with the precision and scope of an acrobat.
The drums and bass here are marvelous, with the band as a whole constantly changing up their act and tone of the music. Although there is a fairly stable sound set that 'Control & Resistance' abides by- that being speedy thrash- there are so many nooks that Watchtower exploit along the course. The songwriting is explosive and fierce, and the lyrics take the same thinking man's approach as the music. Topics revolve around society and war, and the relationship these two concepts have with each other. Although Techhio's vocals are sure to pierce one's ears at the surface level, the intelligence invested in the lyrics improves subsequent listens.
I did not expect any of Ron Jarzombek's earlier work to be any pushover, but I was blown away by Watchtower and this album in particular. Although the diversity is lacking and over- the-top shriek of Alan Techhio is at times jarring, I cannot help but love and revere the music here; an album that sounds as fresh now as it did back then.