Album Title: Tower
Label: Rockshots Records
Date of Release: 26 November 2021
It’s great to be reminded every now and again why, in and amongst the ‘big hitters’, I like to champion those bands that struggle a little more with column inches despite being fully deserving of exposure. One of those bands is Hollow, and I’m delighted to report that the band are back with a great new album, simply titled ‘Tower’. Continuing where they left off with ‘Between Eternities Of Darkness’, the first record following a twenty-year hiatus, ‘Tower’ offers us another slice of classic/power metal with a slight progressive edge. Listen up Queensryche and Crimson Glory fans, this one could be for you. That’s not to say that Hollow are carbon copies, because they’re not; these are just ball-park reference points, of which there are many, should you need them.
The driving force behind Hollow is, as always, Andreas Stoltz who plays the guitar and sings. He is once again joined by drummer Stalder Zantos, so the duo remains unchanged from the last record. And it definitely shows, because if you liked ‘Between Eternities Of Darkness’, you are certain to enjoy ‘Tower’, possibly even more so. I do.
In the press release, Stoltz references the fact that ‘Tower’ is generally a more positive and less dark affair than ‘Between Eternities Of Darkness’, commenting “…this one is more uplifting. HOLLOW’s ‘Tower’ emphasizes the possibility of change and of growth, but also each person’s responsibility to make the better choice. These are times when this is more important than ever.”
This positivity can be heard at points within ‘Tower’, but don’t worry, because this isn’t all sunbeams and flowers – much of the material still casts a shadow. You still get some hefty riffing, intelligent leads, plenty of powerful rhythms, laid down with care and precision by Zantos. The bass guitar dances in classic prog exuberance but is happy to play a supporting role when required. Hollow also make good, intelligent use of light and shade, as well as melody, grooves, and strong choruses to guarantee repeated listens.
Given that the approach to the songwriting and the eventual output remains on a steady course, the music will certainly be familiar to those who know of the band. It means, also, that I have the very same small misgivings about ‘Tower’ as I did back around the turn of the Millennium with 1999’s ‘Architects Of The Mind’ and in 2019 with ‘Between Eternities Of Darkness’. It means that I find the production a little lacking once again; I have always found the final product to be a little harsh and treble friendly. Admittedly, this is the best that Hollow have ever sounded, but occasionally the music feels a bit thin and I’d still welcome a little more smoothness overall, if I’m being critical. And Stoltz’s voice remains something of an acquired taste. He has an interesting delivery, choosing unusual notes, lots of vibrato, and his pitch is quite high. I’ve grown to rather like it, but I’m not sure that’ll be the reaction of all who listen.
As for the songs themselves, there are many high points within the ten on offer on ‘Tower’. The opening song is a largely acoustic affair, where delicate notes duet with Stoltz’s voice. It’s a sombre sounding beginning, except for the burst of heaviness and the lyrics that talk of being ‘brighter, darker, stronger than before’. If that’s not a positive message first up, then I don’t know what is.
After this more sedate beginning, the vast majority of the material benefits from having the guitars at their heart. From driving riffs, to clever embellishments, the six-string of Stoltz is the key to the music. Be it a more thrash-like workout like ‘Guardian’ or the faster-paced death/thrash overtones of ‘Destroyer Of Worlds’, the aggression is always tempered by a surprisingly catchy and memorable chorus or central hook. They might not show their full strength at the outset, but believe me, they flex their muscles as time goes on and thy are ready to make their mark. ‘Destroyer Of Worlds’ for example, has a great chorus.
Mind you, ‘Every Drop Of My Blood’ is even better. The lead guitar work is really nice at the outset, the ensuing power metal riff in the verse is great, and the subsequent chorus is one of my very favourites. It is moody, but incredibly striking, as it contains an irresistible hook, paired with some passionate vocals. It’s a similar story with ‘Sunrise’ too, which is more of a ballad in construction, but unleashes a really strong chorus to counterpoint the moments of darker introspection, as well as the slightly unexpected thrash workout in the latter stages.
For depth, poignancy, and some really subtle songwriting, ‘A Home Forgotten’ is a no-brainer. It also demonstrates more openly those progressive ingredients within the Hollow sound as it bounces around and plays gleefully with a number of different ideas in such a short space of time. However, not for the first time of late, one of the strongest moments on ‘Tower’ arrives at the death. ‘Wander On’ kicks off in standard, classic metal-meets-thrash style, before the most epic and satisfying chorus hits. It’s relatively simple, but delivered perfectly, ensuring that ‘Tower’ ends on a massive high.
I sincerely hope that I have done enough to convince some of you to give Hollow a try, because they definitely deserve a much bigger audience. There’s often little rhyme or reason why one band makes it and another doesn’t, and I see absolutely no reason why Hollow couldn’t build on the momentum of the last couple of years, and use ‘Tower’ as their latest catalyst to take the next step. Give Hollow a try and maybe you’ll be converted to their classic power/prog cause too.
The Score of Much Metal: 85%
You can also check out my other reviews from previous years right here: