Ivory Tower - Stronger

Ivory Tower Stronger cover
Ivory Tower
Massacre Records
Ivory Tower might have existed for more than twenty years but they have been anything but prolific. With five albums, this one inclusive, they were inactive for the past eight or so years and have some returning and new musicians in their ranks including a new singer by the name of Dirk Meyer.
The change of vocalist has made the musical direction go from prog inspired soft lyrical metal, towards a harsher, more direct power metal, with decent enough chops, something along the lines of Stygma IV, Elegy or Vanden Plas at their heaviest or Thomas Ludolphy era Rough Silk, with traces of Symphony X, but probably lacking the finesse that some of these bands had through years of finely honing their craft, despite having a long enough history themselves. The change of direction and fuzzy production that has the harshness of early 90s early digital efforts doesn’t help the result one bit, along with the flat triggered drum sound.
Opener, “The Offer”, has a nice solo and some interesting ideas, but it’s drawn back by the very in your face and packed together “instrumental” production. Meyer sounds like an unrefined Hansi Kürsch, but it sort of feels appropriate in the grand scheme of things.
“Loser” feels as if a Kürsch-a-like sung on a Rough Silk, at their most experimental… and is one of the more interesting tunes, but with everything mixed loud, it loses a lot of the atmosphere it could have.
“End Transmission” has some fine ideas, but quickly becomes formulaic and the production really puts you off. So much compression? Why?!
“Money” only has the aggression and chops, lacking in the melody department, with a decent “orthodox” solo thrown in there, but not much else.
I was going to say that I was hoping for a slower song to shuffle things up a bit… “In Me” tries to slow things down, but a less than ideal, shouty performance from Meyer and the inability of the band to turn it down a notch, it makes this little break in the pace, not an ear-comforting as it should have been, also while I appreciate a good solo, things go a little off the rails here…
“Slave” again has some good ideas and a pretty cool riff and could have been pretty great, if the editing hand of a producer had taken control of all this.
“Strong” with is whispered and almost Mille Petroza like outbursts at moments, feels quite different and while variety is something that this album has, the ear fatigue that the loudness causes makes it hard to fully appreciate it.
“Flight of the Dragon” is an instrumental, probably born out of not wanting to toss away an idea, but it goes nowhere and doesn’t even segue into the somewhat progier but just as hard hitting as most everything on offer here, “Life will Fade”.
“Passing” and “The Wolves You Let In” both clock at over seven minutes and see the band attempting to experiment a bit, the first mean, doomy and atmospheric it has a very cool riff and once it gets going gets the power metal flowing, although Meyer seem to become a little whinier as he seems to mix falsetto in there. The latter is akin to an epic ballad, but while l enjoyed the mood it created, whoever thought that putting whatever brittle sounding effect over vocals (probably keyboards) needs to have their ears examined. It could have still existed but mixed lower.
“One Day” is a nice and somewhat melancholic conclusion, where the band gets things mostly right and strips things down, with results paying dividends. The silly messages in German several minutes after the song is over, are a very 90s touch. Whatever…
The re-emergence of the band with a new singer, as well as the shift in direction take some getting used to and while the ideas and overall talent is there, production is not as good so that takes away a lot from what could have been. The band is certainly worth keeping an eye on and an ear ready for in case they can combat the issues that seem to plague their current formation. This long into a career and with the overall scope and sound changed so drastically, I dunno what the future might hold for them, but I certainly I am curious to see…