Artist: A Tortured Soul
Album: On This Evil Night
Label: Pure Steel Records
A Tortured Soul are a somewhat prolific heavy metal outfit from Milwaukee who just released their fourth album in just a little more than a decade. This particular release is noticeably heavier than their previous efforts, and is also quite a bit more long-winded. Whilst their previous albums were more of the standard length, this beast clocks in at over an hour with most of the songs breaking the six-minute mark. The album is just massive in every sense: its sound is thick from beginning to end, the downtuned guitars contrast with the high-pitched and haunting vocals, and it’s an epic thriller of horror and suspense, with all the dreamy interludes you would expect.
To answer your next question, yes, these guys probably listened to a lot of Mercyful Fate. I might even go so far as to say that it’s hard to spot very many other influences here, if any at all (though this album does interestingly remind me a lot of the Denner-Shermann release from earlier this year that featured Cage’s vocalist). Of course, if you ask me, sounding like Fate is a good thing since I am always on the lookout for more people who can make music like them. Besides the over-the-top vocal tribute to King Diamond, the guitars are dripping in Fate’s influence as well. As long as the rhythm guitarist is actually playing riffs, he is fantastic at channelling the fast-paced and aggressive style that Denner and Shermann perfected back in the golden era.
But unfortunately, there are huge spots where the riffs just seem to disappear completely, and it just leaves me shaking my head. And no, I’m not talking about those slow spots in all types of metal albums where the guitars play clean, the drums take a break, and the vocals soften. Those are fine if you ask me, and they are great for intros or fade-outs, or even as a way to build suspense for the next section. No, I’m not talking about anything like that; I’m talking about breakdowns. Lots of breakdowns. I’m not saying that breakdowns can’t be done tastefully, but the truth is that for the most part these completely interrupt the flow of some truly excellent compositions and kill the song’s momentum almost instantly.
What’s the most strange about them to me is how utterly unnecessary they are. The rhythm and lead guitarists are unbelievably talented and created. Some of the lead work on this album is the most creative stuff I’ve heard this year. And the riffs are equally compelling as well. Why spend all the effort on crafting some truly excellent music just to bury it under some goofy barrage of repeating palm-muted chugs? It doesn’t make any sense. And it’s even less understandable when you have a vocalist who has such an excellent range and ability placed alongside such silliness.
But this album does have its moments. “Dreams” and “Waiting for Death” are a couple of solid pieces where their musical potential really shines through, especially their creativity with constructing alluring melodies and harmonies that perfectly complement the atmosphere they were trying to create. There really is an awful lot to like here. But your mileage will vary depending on your ability to stomach the rest.
Check ’em out on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ATorturedSoul
© 2016, Dave Hodges