If you've anxiously clicked into this review hoping for some information on the long-awaited third full-length from the Texas tech-metal quartet, you'll be disappointed. That record (Mathematics — a working title for some 12 years now!) is still in the making. But if you can't find the band's Energetic Disassembly debut anywhere (you're in the overwhelming majority there) and/or if you're hungering for more recordings from this not-exactly-prolific outfit, go for this fine compilation, brought to you by Texas' purveyors of vintage hard rock/metal, Monster Records (this means you'll probably have to find it in a really killer record shop or through a reputable mail order house).
Demonstrations In Chaos chronicles 15 tracks covering the band's 1983 – 1987 era. Given WATCHTOWER's relative obscurity, it might be wise to start with a brief overview of their approach: quirky songs built from unusual riffs by musicians who obviously love playing far left-of-center. The entire construct is based on a jazzy rhythmic foundation with the raw intensity of screaming thrash. Everything bursts out of the speakers with wild abandon, given even more character by a screeching, high-pitched wail courtesy of Jason McMaster. Included here are seven of the eight tracks found on the Energetic Disassembly debut, "Violent Change" being the absent song. These versions are essentially the same as the versions heard on the debut, only rawer and obviously of a thinner demo-level quality. After that we get the 1987 lineup, which sees McMaster, bassist Doug Keyser and drummer Rick Colaluca joined by guitarist Ron Jarzombek (Billy White's replacement and brother of Bobby). The five songs from this era reveal earlier versions of songs that ended up on their second album, 1989's Control And Resistance. While I prefer the vocals of Alan Tecchio on C&R, hearing this lineup perform this material in a rawer, more undeveloped setting is fascinating, with some of the arrangements differing significantly from the versions that appeared two years later. Next up is a bedroom recording of the previously unknown "Cathode Ray Window", and despite its utterly lo-fi recording, it stands as one of the more complex arrangements in their small catalog of songs. It's a shame this didn't make the cut for Control And Resistance, it would've wedged beautifully between "The Eldritch" and "Mayday In Kiev". "Ballad Assassin" follows, an entertaining track in similarly lighthearted spirit as Ron Jarzombek's SPASTIC INK (though it is White playing here). The guitarist plucks a mock-ballad melody while the rhythm section lays down interruptive sonic attacks as a means of drowning out and eventually obliterating the ballad. McMaster comes in with some vocal looniness to cap everything off, the whole thing constituting the wackiest idea they've ever allowed the public to hear. Finally we're treated to a very early version of "Meltdown", which inexplicably appeared on the 1983 Texas compilation Cottage Cheese From The Lips Of Death: A Texas Hardcore Compilation. It actually sounds quite a bit like RAVEN (McMaster coming off slightly less annoying than John Gallagher), and I'd bet money the band absorbed a bit of influence in the early days from that madcap trio.
As much as WATCHTOWER never fails to astound, you may find it hard listening because 1) McMaster's vocals are truly love-or-hate, and 2) some of the sessions are pretty abhorrent in terms of audio quality. But it's friggin' WATCHTOWER, and as such is a mandatory addition to the library of any metal fan thrilled by innovation, oddity, technicality and inhuman talent levels.