Ebony Tower were a band I discovered at the Cambridge Rock Festival two years. Despite the fact at the time they were very much still a 'work-in-progress' I was impressed with their eclectic mix of styles with ranged from gothic prog to pop rock. I bought their debut EP Dead Planets New Stars which was released in 2009 at the festival and even though ir featured a different line-up to the one on the stage, it featured much of the same feeling as the then-current incarnation. The Magic Box - Part 1 is the follow up to that EP, but it has quite a different sound. Gone are the gothic overtones to be replaced with something I would call a 'poppy snarl'. It is a hard sound to categorize and the EP presents an odd yet rewarding listen. Again, the line-up has changed but the core of founding member and guitarist Wilson McQueen, vocalist Zanda King and violinist Skye Sheridan remain.
The EP starts off with what I think is actually the weakest track, but still The Passing is enjoyable. It starts off with a slow drum beat provided on this track by Reef's Dominic Greensmith before a strange, almost scratchy guitar riff comes in that leads the songs. King's powerful and distinctive vocals act as a counter-melody to the guitar with the violin work from Sheridan adding another layer to the mix. The very raw production at first seems to hinder the track, but on repeated listens to manage to pick out all the layers, including a pounding bassline and a tortured guitar solo from McQueen part way through. Up next is The Labyrinth. A chiming guitar pattern and an almost swing drum beat heralds the start of this tune, however it is the violin that seems to take centre stage here. It plays the real lead parts and backs up King's vocals nicely. Midway through the song builds with some massive guitar chords and morphs into a real rocker - a good song! LSD follows and this is easily the best song on the EP for me. After a short piano intro the song comes crashing to life. It is upbeat, it is catchy and it rocks. For me, this is the song on the EP that is closest to the sound they had on Dead Planets New Stars and, for me anyway, should be the direction they continue to take in the future. It is a good summer rock song and will go down a storm live with its big chorus and bouncy bassline. Finally we have The Mirror to close off the EP. This is a nice chilled out number drenched in organ provided by Spencer Cozens. Overall, the song has a very clean sound which I think works well. It demonstrates another side to King's vocals and just has a great 70s feel to it. The Magic Box - Part 1 almost feels like a soundboard for different styles from a band that is still establishing its identity. While I enjoy all of the songs on here, I feel that the final two are the strongest and best demonstrate the skills of the band. With a full debut album due out later in the year, it will be interesting to see which path the band decide to take.
The EP will be released on 6th May 2013 via RRed Chord Records, but is currently avaliable for streaming at the link below: