German metallers Ivory Tower return from an eight year recording hiatus with Stronger, which in one word also serves as a musical mission statement. The band’s fifth album marks the first studio appearance of gifted new singer Dirk Meyer, whose voice seamlessly ranges from menacing growls to operatic. Meyer’s vocal approach suits the grandiose themes that Ivory Tower explores, from greed and power to existentialism, self-worth and mortality, propelled by fast paced progressive and power metal.
With dynamic rhythms, melancholic synth and backing choirs, album opener “The Offer” establishes that listeners will be taken on a journey of mind, body and spirit; “The life you had is dismissed/Become the one you could be/Give me your hand, come with me…Take my offer now,” Meyer wails. Ivory Tower makes every effort to toil with a listener’s psyche and Meyer’s half-muted snarls, on cut four’s “Money,” are used as pre-choruses and even harmonies. The technique works particularly well on “Strong,” because the theme of strength is questioned rather than boasted.
Another standout, “In Me,” is a mid-tempo rocker whch only briefly changes pace while allowing listeners to catch a breath, especially when the first half of the song’s verses do not rely on guitars. The lyrical premise has Meyer as the narrator on the verge of a crisis and now reflecting. The perspective, paralyzed by a revelation that could have prevented the current state of personal misery, is clearly lamented during the chorus.
Additionally, the technical abilities of the band cannot be overstated. The barrage of double-bass drum beats is precise and varies on each song, even taking the lead during “Life Will Fade” and setting a pace the band surprisingly maintains throughout the track. Guitarist Sven Boge contributes stellar solos on Stronger, reaching an apex during “Passing” as the musicians push physical limits without sacrificing melody. Fans of Symphony X, Seven Thorns, Eagleheart and Freternia will find much to like on this epic, 70-plus minute release. Ivory Tower does not set out to redefine the genre so much as the band tries to strengthen it.
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Justin Smulison is a professional content writer and producer whose first love is music. Smulison’s digital and print copywriting experience spans music, law, true crime, advertising and real estate, among other subjects. You can often find JS in Long Beach, New York, either running on the boardwalk or in the sand with his family.