Ivory Tower - Ivory Tower


Year of Release: 1998
Label: Limb Music Products
Catalog Number: LMP 9810-006 CD
Format: CD
Total Time: 58:29:00

It's amazing what a band name change and a bit of a lineup change will do to a band. Ivory Tower is the former band called Ax n' Sex, then Steiger for a short time, and now Ivory Tower. Ax n' Sex came highly recommended to me one time, and I was quick to jump. The band turned out to be some average, unexciting, straight ahead metal that turned to hard rock very fast. I was also quick to trade the disc away. When someone told me that I had to hear Ivory Tower, and that this was the reincarnation of Ax n' Sex, I was VERY hesitant. I was also told that this was now a totally different band and that it would be right up my picky, melodic prog metal alley. To simply put it, I am not only amazed at how a band can change their style (for a change, in a good direction), but I'm amazed at the quality of the music. This band has gone from an average, unexciting metal band to a slick, melodic, keyboard laced prog metal band.

THE STYLE:

Forget what you know about Ax n' Sex. As a matter of fact, don't even bother making a comparison if you have both discs, it just won't work. Ivory Tower is now a melodic, prog metal band that sounds like a blend of Dream Theater, Vanden Plas, Avalon and Aztec Jade. Note the blend of warmth that a combination like that could produce. Don't get the impression that this is another one of those Dream Theater clones that everyoneexcept me loves to hate, but rather try to imagine the various influences of those bands. The obvious progressive tendencies of Dream Theater and song structures. The DT style of Vanden Plas with that added touch of warmth, the true melodic warmth and catchiness of Aztec Jade, and the epic sounds of Avalon. If you like any of the mentioned bands, you are bound to like Ivory Tower. I'll even go one step further and say that their 2nd song, called "A Distant Light" is straight off of the Vanden Plas Colour Temple disc from the song "Soul Survives". Hailing from Germany, it's obvious that Vanden Plas has rubbed off on more than one band from that country. Rip off, clone, or whatever you want to call it, it's great. The band uses tons of keyboards this time out to lace the guitar driven songs, just like Vanden Plas. There is a nice blend between the two, and the keys are veryimportant in driving the Ivory Tower sound. Some of the songs can be considered a bit "cheesy" lyrically, and the obligatory love ballad is also present. The band likes to blend several layers of keyboards into each song to give them that Avalon style of epic sound and the guitars are very reminiscent of the Vanden Plas crunchy, layered sound. Overall, I'd classify this as melodic, symphonic, prog metal.

THE BAND:

Andre Fischer - Vocals
Sven Boge - Guitars
Stephan Laschetzki - Bass
Stephan Machon - Keyboards
Thorsten Thrunke - Drums

Apparently, the band replaced one of the guitarists and the bass player from Ax n' Sex and in stepped the current keyboard player. Obviously, the switch from the twin guitars toa guitar / keyboard combo now produces the symphonic sound that Ivory Tower will be known for as of this disc. To sum up the band's talents, I'd have to say that they play in a very similar style to the Vanden Plas crew, only with just a bit less conviction and aggression, and that may be due to the nature of the song writing and the less aggressive nature of the music. However, the guitar crunch is there ala VP along with some of the similar soloing. I'll say up front that Sven Boge does not present himself as a virtuoso, but does an outstanding job of carrying the crunchy sound they have. There are some obligatory solos along the way, of course, and Boge pulls them off quite well, and very melodically. The bass and drums have that VP approach as well, with plenty of double kick drumming along the way, and nice additional touches from the bass player. Eachinstrument has an assigned task here, and it's interesting to hear each instrument playing different melodies and coming together to produce the same song. The keyboard player, Stephan Machon, is the standout player here, at least to my ears. There are more key sounds here than any other instrument, and he toggles between piano, various synths, and lots of strings. This is what gives it the epic, Avalon-like sound. The love ballad, "Spring", gives a very good idea of the warm playing of Machon. Not mind blowing, but very beautiful. The guy is bent on bringing as much warmth to this sound as possible, and it works superbly. Anyone into keyboarded prog metal will have a field day with this disc. There aren't many key solos on the disc, but you will find some type of keyboard sound everywhere on this disc. The emphasis here from this band is beauty, not showmanship, and this is exactly what you get from the members of this band.

THE VOCALS:

Apparently, the band retained Andre Fischer from Ax n' Sex, although I can't confirm this because I don't have the disc anymore. However, from what I recall, I did not like the vocal style of sounds of the Ax n' Sex singer, and if this is the same singer, the transformation is incredible. Andre can be best compared to Leon Ozug, of Aztec Jade.He has that super pleasant, mid range voice that is soothing to the ears, and can bring a tear to your eyes singing the right song. The difference comes in when Fischer goes into high range for any extended period of time. He becomes a bit whiny, or should I say irritating if you don't have a tolerance for this type of singing. Ozug, on the other hand, can hit a high note all day and still be pleasing as hell on your ears. The slight noise problem occurs very infrequently when Fischer has to hold a high note for any length of time. His vibrato becomes a bit drone-like, sounding like he is purposely changing the tone in order to hold the note as if he is having trouble getting up into super high range. A slight, insignificant problem overall, but I can hear the voice patrol saying now that theyare having a hard time with this issue. Only on a couple of songs will you hear this happen, but it is there. Otherwise, Fischer is one competent, melodic, pleasant singer and should be more than pleasing to most ears, especially the melodic prog metal lovers' ears like mine.

THE PRODUCTION:

Absolutely superb in all areas, except the drums. What do you expect from a band signed to LMP? Excellent production, right? Right. This is exactly what you get. The overall sound itself is outstandingly clear and crisp. The keyboards and vocals are way up front in the mix, almost too far in the vocal dept, but you will quickly learn to love this. Melodic prog metal always showcases the singers and keyboards in most cases, and this is a prime example. You will be able to hear every single word that Fischer sings, with ease. Don't bother to pick up the lyric sheet, you won't need it. One of the clearest vocal recordings I've heard in a long time. Imagine Royal Hunt's outstanding vocal clarity, and you now know well the vocals are recorded here. The keyboards are next to get praise. It doesn't get much more epic folks. Thick, rich, synths, pianos and strings abound here. The mix has the keys way up front, and along with the vocals, dominate the sound. The guitar is crunchy, just the way most like their prog metal, although there is just a hint of weakness in the recording, I personally would have brough the guitar sound up just a bit to give it that true Vanden Plas sound, but it works here nonetheless. It still crunches and rattles walls, so have no fear. The bass is deep and boomy and will shake some concrete at certain levels. The drums, well, I have my complaints lodged here in this dept, as I always do with most bands. The snare drum has a bit of an "empty" sound compared to the rest of the big sound going on around it. For music this epic, the drums could havebeen miked better, with a more boomy, punchy snare drum instead of the common place tinny style recordings of snare drums. Germany and Sweden may have the market cornered in creating incredible prog metal, but America has it in the recording dept,especially the drums, in which I've heard some pretty awesomesounds that I'd like to hear on all prog metal bands. It does not take away from the music at all, I'm just picking apart the recording like I always do. I would gather that most people don't even listen to certain aspects of music, like a snare drum, so don't even worry.

THE COMMENTS:

In summary, if you like any of the aforementioned bands, you will like Ivory Tower.While not a clone of any one of those bands, Ivory Tower takes certain aspects of those bands and incorporates them into their own sound. For melodic prog metal lovers like me this will be a wet dream. For those who cry out, "DT sound alikes" or similar reactions to bands like these, then stay away. Then there will be those who say the music is too light. Well, in a true metal sense, maybe so. Here in the prog metal world, this is actually heavy enough to satisfy most. It's one of those surprises that I like receiving along the way while waiting for my favorite bands to release their monsters. When bands like Ivory Tower come along and release discs like this, it makes the favorite band list start to grow very long. A great debut, or debut by this band under this name. I can think of a lot of bands who should change their names. If this is what happens when bands change their name, then I highly urge those bands with funky names to do it and put out gems like this one.


Tracklisting:
One Life In Asia (7:27) / A Distant Life (8:04) / Alive (5:53) / Falling Leaves (5:28) / Spring (4:27) / She (6:48) / Music (6:05) / Blinded (14:17)

Musicians:
Andre Fischer - vocals
Sven Boge - guitars
Stephan Laschetzki - bass
Stephan Machon - keyboards
Thorsten Thrunke - drums

Discography:
Ax 'N Sex - Victim Of Time (1996)
Ivory Tower (1998)
Beyond The Stars (2000) It (expected 2005)

Genre: Progressive-Power Metal

Origin DE

Added: July 25th 1999
Reviewer: Larry "LarryD" Daglieri

Artist website: www.ivorytower.de
Hits: 899
Language: english

  

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