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4.00 | 20 ratings | 4 reviews
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Album · 1985


1. Violent Change (3:22)
2. Asylum (3:48)
3. Tyrants In Distress (5:59)
4. Social Fears (4:41)
5. Energetic Disassembly (4:39)
6. Argonne Forest (4:38)
7. Cimmerian Shadows (6:35)
8. Meltdown (3:59)

Total Time 37:41


- Jason McMaster / Vocals
- Billy White / Guitars
- Doug Keyser / Bass
- Rick Colaluca / Drums

About this release

Zombo Records
November 30th, 1985

Reissued in 1993 by Institute of Art Records with the following tracklist:

1. Asylum (3:48)
2. Meltdown (3:59)
3. Tyrants In Distress (5:59)
4. Argonne Forest (4:38)
5. Energetic Disassembly (4:39)
6. Violent Change (3:22)
7. Social Fears (4:41)
7. Cimmerian Shadows (6:35)

Total Time 37:41

Thanks to UMUR, Lynx33, Unitron for the updates


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Specialists/collaborators reviews

It isn't quite true that technicality was absent from thrash prior to Watchtower bringing out this debut - Metallica were taking things in a more intricate direction on Ride the Lightning, after all - but Watchtower would, on Energetic Disassembly, push technicality to the fore in a way which no other band had dared to do. Before this, "progressive metal" mostly involved metal bands' nods to the prog bands of the past, like Iron Maiden's epics, but here Watchtower chart a course for innovative and complex musical experimentation in a metal context which demonstrated that the tougher, heavier, more extreme metal subgenres of metal could get artsy and clever too. Blazing a trail which would subsequently be taken by the likes of Cynic or Atheist, Energetic Disassembly is a brilliant example of how genres can be blended without blunting the appeal of either of them.
"Energetic Disassembly" is the debut full-length studio album by technical/progressive metal act Watchtower. The album was originally released on vinyl (limited to around 3,000 copies) and cassette tape (limited to around 1,500 copies) through Zombo Records in November 1985. "Energetic Disassembly" has seen a couple of re-releases since. the first CD version was released through Institute of Art Records in 1993 (featuring a tracklist where the order of the tracks is different from the original version).

The music on the album is technical/progressive metal strongly influenced by jazz/fusion music. Especially the rhythm section of bassist Doug Keyser and drummer Rick Colaluca play complex fusion styled notes and rhythms. I don´t recall hearing any other metal act fusing metal with fusion to this extent as early as 1985. In that respect we´re dealing with a unique and groundbreaking release. I guess I would mention Rush as an influence but Watchtower is much more metal oriented. In fact "Energetic Disassembly" is a pretty raw and aggressive progressive metal album with high pitched screaming vocals, sharp and aggressive thrashy riffing, and loads of tempo- and time signature changes. The music on the album is far more aggressive (and progressive) than the music of contemporaries like Fates Warning, Crimson Glory, and Queensrÿche.

The tracks are generally very energetic and played with outstanding skill. We´re exposed to "out of this world" level musicianship. Even though especially the guitar occasionally plays some more "regular" sounding thrashy heavy metal riffs, "Energetic Disassembly" overall comes off as quite futuristic sounding. In other words it´s an album that has generally aged well. That´s despite a sound production that firmly places the album in the eighties. With music this powerful and energetic a sligthly flawed sound production is a minor issue though. A 4 - 4.5 star (85%) rating is fully deserved.
Conor Fynes
'Energetic Disassembly' - Watchtower (7/10)

At a time when 'being thrash' usually amounted to little more than playing fast and gurgling into a microphone, a band from Texas sought to change everything. Called by some to be the first prog metal album, and many more to be the first 'tech' metal album, Watchtower's debut 'Energetic Disassembly' was a piece of music on another level than virtually everything else that was calling itself heavy metal at the time. For that, this album can be considered one of those ahead-of-its-time classics. Indeed, the work here impresses, although there are some issues with the sound that would thankfully be worked out with the band's near-perfect sophomore 'Control & Resistance'.

Although Watchtower is best known for its later lineup of Alan Tecchio and Ron Jarzombek, the sound of Watchtower here is not any different. The music here is fast, blistering, ferociously technical, and overtly flirting with progressive structure. Even compared to today's thrash metal, Watchtower are fiercely technical performers. Billy White's style of riffage is rooted in the same thrash style as a band like Slayer, but there is much more activity within the passages, and it doesn't let up. Rick Cocaluca's drum work shows signs of jazz influence, but the sound of his set is booming. Doug Keyser's contribution with the bass is the most subtle of the instrumentalists, but it sports a technical prowess that almost parallels the guitars. And, of course, the vocals of Jason McMaster are here as well. Although he would be latter replaced by the superior Alan Tecchio (a dead-ringer for McMaster), Jason's high-pitched falsetto is a core trademark of the band. The way he belts his voice makes Watchtower a truly all-encompassing technical band. Although McMaster's vocals are undeniably powerful, the unrelenting high-pitched shriek can wear thin for me, and this is an issue I suspect many listeners will have when listening to 'Energetic Disassembly'.

The songwriting brilliantly incorporates the technical virtuosity of the band, but ultimately, the songs are not very distinct from each other, and it's not uncommon to feel a sense of deja vu within the second half of the album. As well, I cannot help but keep comparing 'Energetic Disassembly' to the band's second album 'Control & Resistance', and my awe of that one. To me, it feels like the band improved virtually every aspect of their sound with that one, from the replacement of vocalists, to more clearly defined songwriting, and the trademark guitar work of Ron Jarzombek. Here, some of the things I loved most about the second album had not yet been injected into the band's system, but the core elements of what make Watchtower so great are here in full. A great technical thrash album from a classic band.

Members reviews

The first true Progressive Metal band of all time

Manic technical insanity. There was nothing even remotely close to the progressive technicality going on in metal (or anywhere else aside from Jazz) at the time of this release. So far ahead of it's time that it can still be called an impressive anomaly of musical prowess today.

The music on display here is 5 star material. There are just a few unfortunate problems that really drag it down; first of all, the vocalist isn't great. Especially where every other member is an absolute virtuoso at their instrument, the weak vocalist really stands out. To his credit, he does write some interesting lyrics, especially for the time. The guitar and drum tones are also pretty bad, although the bass sounds great (it's audible).

Regardless, it's probably this album that spawned hyper technical metal, and pushed the genre to even further extremes without simply playing heavier. Groundbreaking and influential, but more importantly still an amazingly entertaining record to this day.

Ratings only

  • Fant0mas
  • tapfret
  • willprogresivo
  • Necrotica
  • Unitron
  • StargazerSlave
  • Colt
  • Jan
  • piposo
  • Anster
  • luanpedi
  • muerte_inoxia
  • spizzetti
  • abdulbashur
  • Lynx33
  • Sleeper

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