Release DetailsLABEL Season of Mist
RELEASED ON 11/26/2013
...let’s just say that this has more than a little personality.
When you come across an album that ranges from a mix of Code and Root to full Arcturus worship, a touch of Solefaldian weirdness, and every quirky sound in between, the labels are tough to come by. When you add the slightest penchant for later Faith No More and even more accessible hard rock, the effort becomes impossible. While The Tower – full length number three from Norway’s Vulture Industries – certainly has a lot of the music-by-a-band-that-was-once-black-metal, “avant-garde” carnival feel to it, that isn’t its defining factor. In truth, the instrumental element isn’t the defining factor of this album at all, but that’s what we’re going to talk about first. So hold your horses already.
The Tower ranges from the type of riffage that isn’t extreme in nature but hints at it (opening title track) to a bit of that “circus music” that similar bands might propagate (“A Knife Between Us”). Bits of prog, goth (the 80s kind), and alt rock all enhance the main thread, but never dominate. While this might appear schizo on paper, the album is actually a rather coherent listen. Vulture Industries regularly brings on the dynamics, or rather hints at them, but a full arc rarely develops. During songs such as the nearly 10 minute “The Hound,” the band does the light-dark thing okay, but abrupt changes often interrupt the flow. This, along with some other minor cracks like the occasionally ill-advised keyboard sound, should be damning faults for Vulture Industries, but they aren’t, and after a while they stop mattering. This is because the band knows exactly who needs to take charge, and wisely puts the weight of the album on the shoulders of their most talented member: the vocalist.
It’s a good thing then, that vocalist Bjørnar Nilsen is way up to the task. While Nilsen doesn’t sound exactly like anyone else, he is close to a number of highly regarded voices, both in sound and execution. The closest comparison would be to say he is somewhat of a meeting point between Big Boss, ICS Vortex, Kvohst, and Nick Cave. (And why not add a touch of Mike Patton, and shades of Ian Astbury? Sure, let’s do it.) In other words, the guy has pipes, and the guy has fucking charisma. Most of those names make sense given the bands mentioned above, but Cave might be the key to really unlocking Nilsen’s vibe. His ability to croon, swoon, rant and rave in a Cave-ish manner adds character to heavier passages and really carries the lighter stuff. The softer, brooding “The Dead Won’t Mind” brings to mind Cave on “Red Right Hand,” even providing the slightest touch of that storytelling ability. Nilson also cures the album’s occasional meandering ails by staying unpredictable, and regularly weaves a damn infectious chorus melody (“A Knife Between Us” gets downright gravelly). The sum total of his performance is a drastic elevation of The Tower. Pun fully intended.
While it seems unfair to attribute so much of a band’s success to a fifth of their membership, it is unavoidable here. Besides, the band seems more than comfortable letting Nilsen take the reins—he is the elite quarterback on the pretty good football squad that is Vulture Industries, leading his team to a scrappy victory. So rather than attempting to slap some ambiguous, most likely inaccurate label on the album, let’s just say that this has more than a little personality. After all, even if you enjoy the instrumental aspects of The Tower, it’s that vocal performance – and the intent behind it – that will really stick with you.