DB HOF NO. 59
The making of Watchtower’s “Control and Resistance”
released: November 1989
As the popularity of our Hall of Fame feature grows, so do the chances of us throwing a wild card at you folks. By wild card, we’re not talking about inferiority or trying to slide some ironic/sub-par action past you with the hopes that you’ll not mind having your leg pulled and laugh along. Nope, we’re simply referring to those albums that relatively few people—or at least fewer than those who’ve lived and breathed inductees like Reign in Blood or …And Justice for All—have heard, but are ones in-the-know metalheads will forever gush over when they’re not grumbling about them being underrated and never getting their due.
Control and Resistance is one of those albums. When it first appeared in late 1989, it was ahead of its time: a technical marvel, awash with virtuosic musicianship and pertinent lyrics that rivaled Bad Religion’s Greg Graffin in the syllable usage department. Watchtower were about more than lyrical/musical masturbation, however. Yes, they showed off their prodigious talents, didn’t hold back on the bewildering shred and no time signature was too complicated, but they took the elements of talent, progressive thinking, exploration and experimentation and used them to sculpt songs as melodically infectious as they were cranially challenging. After the lineup that recorded their self-released debut, Energetic Disassembly, fell apart, three bookish, prog-metal alchemists from Austin, TX—drummer Rick Colaluca, guitarist Ron Jarzombek and bassist Doug Keyser—found themselves leaping into an unknown fray. They scored a contract with Germany’s Noise Records, joined forces last-minute with New Jersey native and ex-Hades vocalist Alan Tecchio, and hauled off to Germany to create a tech-metal masterpiece. All in the course of six months.
There’s much dichotomy at work and play on Control and Resistance. Half of the songs were crafted with former vocalist Jason McMaster and guitarist Billy White (both of whom moved on to pastures involving tighter pants and higher hair). The other half had them writing new material without a full-time vocalist, followed by a rush to get to know Tecchio as they hopped on a plane to spend the summer recording with strangers in a strange studio and foreign country.
Those who’ve heard Control and Resistance—whether 20 years or 20 minutes ago—are still scraping their jaws off the tiles and completely understand the majesty of this largely unheard cult album. Those same people are also trying to contain their metal boners upon hearing the news that Watchtower are back with McMaster, playing shows and getting set to release the long-long-awaited third album, Mathematics. In the meantime, enjoy the story of our Hall’s wild card selection. —Kevin Stewart-Panko
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