GHOST TOWER  Head Of Night  CD   (Paragon)   9.99

Unfortunately short-lived (operating from 2007 to 2012 and then momentarily reuniting in 2016), this Nebraska band delivered some excellent (if underheard) old-school heavy metal that cites the sort of influences that make my withered heart sing: surrounding themselves with their collective appreciation of traditional doom metal, 70's/early 80's-era progressive rock, New Wave Of British Heavy Metal, and ancient horror films, Ghost Tower does a fine job at crafting the kind of spooky, vintage-sounding metal that you'd easily expect to hear coming from Minotauro or Cruz Del Sur Records. With specific musical influences like Mercyful Fate and Black Sabbath fueling the sound of their eerie vision, the music on Head Of Night is total time-warp metal, transporting you to an alternate 1982 as soon as the opening strains of "Ninth Tooth Of The Gravekeeper's Grin" start to drift off the album. Out of all of the Paragon releases that I recently picked up, this might be my favorite alongside the latest Dimentianon. Packing in mood and might for nearly an hour, these folks hammer down twelve high-quality songs of haunted heaviness that are made all the more menacing thanks to the weird and witchy lead vocals of frontwoman Ameven. Her voice is tough, raw and unpolished, which I really dig, and materializes into all kind of angusihed moans and some surprisingly King Diamond-esque howls (the Mercyful Fate influence is pretty strong with these folks); those vocals are contrasted with more abrasive, gruff screaming from both her and multi-instrumentalist Matt Preston, amnd also drop some off-kilter harmonies here and there.

The album is a slab of primo throwback misery metal, and oh is crawling with riffs, massive riffs, galloping fast-paced riffs galore on stuff like opener "Ninth Tooth Of The Gravekeeper's Grin" (which sounds like it could have come off some little-known British 12" import at the height of the NWOBHM, the heroic melodic leads screaming over their burly palm-muted power hymns. The track titles alone glow with occult mysstery and vintage horror visions ("Secret Of Black Moss Lake", "House Of Wary Shadows", "Scroll Of The Lunar Tribe") and that air of menace and darkness sinks into every song. And it blows my hair back when they suddenly downshift from that rapid-fire riffing and rocking tempo into some cavernois trad-doom heaviness, Ameven's husky singing rising over these killer church organ-style keys and swirling clouds of slow-motion spookiness. And those doom-laden moments are often crushing, with massive chugging, battering-ram riffs hitting like a sledgehammer. The proggier qualities become more and more apparent as you make your way through the album, encountering sudden, technical riff changes, a few wild time changes, extended lead guitar fireworks, passages of Hammond-esque sound and tricky effects-draped guitars and offbeat synth runs tangled on the instrumental "Brooding Silence" and maudlin closer "Elegy Of Dreamtime". All of that stuff floats quite nicely together, giving some ghostly ambience that surrounds the riff-fest and shredding that make up so much of Head Of Night and its rough, almost garagey production that also helps in giving it all an older, more classic early 80's sensibility. I'm usually a sucker for anyone that blends vintage trad doom and prog influences, and these folks deliver with their own gritty, slightly gnarly signature carved right into the heavy metal attack. Along with that obvious Fate element, the Tower is also reminiscent of cult heavy metallers Twisted Tower Dire, as well as touches of Judgement Of The Dead-era Pagan Altar, hints of Reager-period Vitus, and to a lesser degree, more contemporary femme-fronted doom metal bands like Witch Mountain and Windhand. And it sounds sincere as fuck, which goes a long way to endear this style of metal to me. The roughness of the vocals and Ghost Tower's odd proggy quirks and sometimes jarring stylistic shifts might be something of an acquired taste, perhaps. But if you're a fanatic for that aforementioned field of classic early 1980's power and majesty, man, this album's got it.

This Paragon CD reissue features an additional trio of songs at the end: a pair of songs recorded in 2010 ("My Dear Killer" and the weird experimental creepiness of "Whispers From Beyond"), and a 2008 demo track "Sable Beldam" that busts out some ripping lo-fi speed metal.