Belarus is not necessarily known as a true hotspot for Metal, but there is one band that released two outstanding albums 14 years ago that are virtually unknown to the vast majority of Metalheads out there: GODS TOWER. After “The Eerie” and “The Turns”, which both were Folk-influenced Doom Metal classics that were on the other side of the beaten path with wilful melodies and the at times a little off-kilter vocals of Lesley Knife, which did not help them garner any more widespread recognition in the world, severely limited distribution obviously being the main obstacle.
In the years to follow all we really saw was one compilation album that actually was released in Western Europe, too, their split and the death of guitarist Alexander Urakov and it was not until late in 2011 that I found out about a new album titled “Steel Says Last”, which once more strikes a special chord in my heart, since it is somewhat of a continuation of the band’s original style, but at the same time is not, confusing, I know, but I’ll explain. I maybe should also mention that some of the tracks contained here are re-recordings of compositions written by Urakov.
One of the main characteristics of GODS TOWER’s sound is definitely still there – Lesley Knife’s voice, where I am still not certain, if his voice is reaching its limits throughout several of the songs (over all three albums) or if it actually is part of the plan to use his voice in this way, one thing is for sure, mass appeal will never be high on his list of goals to achieve, but at the same time it is part of GODS TOWER and their appeal, since he brings growls, yells, whispers and also actually sung passage to the table. Also still around are the playful Folk-influenced melodies and the Doomy atmosphere that many of the tracks display. On the other hand the keyboards seem to be playing a bigger role and that is not always something good, because at times they get a little obtrusive and borderline cheesy, but at the same time they still add to the sound, so damned, if you do, damned if you don’t, so to say.
I’ve heard people describe GODS TOWER as Doom, Folk, Pagan and Viking Metal and the truth lies somewhere in-between, since the Belarusians bring us a little bit of everything, opener “Earth, Wind, Fire & Blood” is pure GODS TOWER, Knife’s characteristic voice, the jaunty rhythm and folky melody, embedded into an overall Doom atmosphere doesn’t leave any room for interpretation. The strength of the band undoubtedly is, when they let the Doom shine through a little more and combine it with the dreamy and at times Folk-influenced guitar melodies, such as “Rarog”, my personal favourite “Evil”, “Yesterday’s Rivers” and closing “People In The Swamp”, which is a dreamy, almost introspective atmospheric piece to lead you right to hitting “Play” again...
But this is not all they have to offer, one of the biggest, positive, surprises is “Abandon All Hope”, where the drums have this march-like quality which together with the dry, partially shouted chorus works perfectly, towards the end it accelerates dramatically and still works, probably my second favourite track here. Overall there are more faster tracks than in the past, which does help a little with loosening things up and it works, since they still capture the band’s spirit. If you recall me complaining a little about some of the keyboards, main perpetrator in this case is “Heroes Die Young”, which actually is led by a keyboard riff, which is very catchy and good, but is a little too “pushy” for my taste, also in faster “Civilization” the keys see a bigger role, yet better integrated.
So while, as mentioned, “Steel Says Last” does not reach the brilliance of “The Eerie” and “The Turns”, but still is a highly original album that brings some elements and style mixes to the table that other bands just don’t and I’m happy GODS TOWER are back, before buying I would definitely advise you to give them a try first, because like I said, this band is not for everyone!
(Online January 20, 2012)