Tormenter - Pulse of terror 4/5
1. Gallery of reality
3. No anesthesia
4. Pulse of terror
5. Hunger for violence
6. Messiah on trial
7. Inhumanity personified
8. A season in the plague
9. Severe enforcement
10. Assault from beyond the grave
11. Dismantle the world
12. Pantheon of lunacy
Of the 4 thrash CDs released or re-released by EBM Records that I have been tasked with reviewing of late, Tormenter’s ‘Pulse of terror’ stands out in a few ways. The longest, arguably the heaviest, easily the most complex and the most modern, it is a CD that is a slightly tough nut to crack, but offers plenty of rewards for dedicated thrashers looking for something both familiar and imaginative.
The debut efforts from the German-loving Serbs Toxic Trace and Pollution, and 80s survivors Prophecy were well worth the positive write-ups I gave them, but are rather different from this one in that they are knowingly, wilfully old-fashioned thrash, and while Tormenter’s first love is clearly in the same field, they have a few other ideas in mind too.
Not the dreaded ‘modern thrash’ the opening couple of paragraphs may have set you up for, ‘Pulse of terror’ remains strictly 80s-rooted, but takes a great deal more cues from the increased technicality and brutality of the latter end of the decade as well as the early 90s. At 60 minutes, it can be a challenging listen, but Tormenter write with enough variety and energy that it doesn’t ever feel like listening to the same couple of songs on repeat as the CD wears on.
While not anything as crazily over-the-top as say, Watchtower, the levels of technicality on display are impressive to behold, the rate at which riffs are suddenly discarded for something of a completely different tempo stunning to behold. The relentless intensity fosters a suffocating, chaotic atmosphere that will completely engulf the listener after a few songs.
But in saying that, ‘Pulse of terror’ is not merely a Vio-lence style bundling together of as many plundering riffs as possible, and the songs follow a few different approaches to ensure the CD doesn’t become bogged down in repetition. Too many thrash CD released lately shoot themselves in the foot by trying to draw too few ideas out for far too long, but the painstakingly-crafted songs here flow as smoothly as something this aggressive and hectic can do, showing the care and attention put into the writing. The slower “Messiah on trial” and the closing stunner “Pantheon of lunacy”, a little more open, melodic and expansive than most of its brethren, also show that Tormenter have more in the tank than just browbeating.
Vocalist Charlie Rodelos initially didn’t sound too impressive to me, a little run-of-the-mill in many regards, but a little deeper listening goes a long way. He doesn’t have the most distinctive of voices, admittedly, but does an admirable job of keeping pace with the often frantic music, and manages to swing back and forth between tunefulness and aggression with surprising ease. In the melody department he is kept company by a pair of talented and versatile guitarists – their lead work often goes for the more frenetic, noodling approach but just as often an attractive neo-classical-inspired solo will take centre stage, showing a bit of their Testament influence in the process.
The production is also something that takes a bit of getting used to – the rhythm section are a metronome-perfect, piston-flailing machine, and the CD seems to have been mixed to allow them as much exposure as possible. It’s great to hear the bass and drums so loud and clear as they are here, particularly to catch every second of Thomas Bonilla’s amazing, fill-happy performance behind the kit, but in places it does feel as though the guitars are being swamped and the songs can occasionally sound a little off balance due to this.
Other than that there are few complaints – it would be uncharitable to describe the CD as “exhausting”, but it certainly can be something of an endurance test and only hardened thrash nuts will be able to spin it on repeat. In a market that has gone from shockingly underpopulated to arguably oversaturated in just a few short years, it is getting harder and harder for upcoming thrash bands to stand out. Those like Tormenter who takes the essence of the genre’s beloved golden years and apply this much craft and inspiration to it are the ones that deserve to rise to the top.
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