TOURNIQUET - Gazing at Medusa
Tourniquet Gazing at Medusa
A return to greatness? Pretty much.*
I’ve always liked this band Tourniquet, but I guess you can call me a “casual fan,” since I usually fall back on a handful of albums for repeated listening over the years – specifically, the first four albums: Stop the Bleeding, Psychosurgery, Pathogenic Ocular Dissonance and Vanishing Lessons. Like most of you, I love the Tourniquet setlist mainstays (aka the hits), but the band has also scored high with obscure tracks like “Harlot Widow and the Virgin Bride” or “Tears of Korah,” where tempo changes and climbing, searing riffs pierced the song’s presentation like a scream.
This album is like a giant jam session with all the great Tourniquet elements intact. Harsh, brash and refined shouts bristle with power, driven by fat, full slabs of galloping or appropriately chugging rhythm guitar alongside tasteful soloing wails – all at breakneck speeds. It’s hard to pick out what I like the best. The guitars, drums and vocals all shine.
It might be Aaron Guerra’s best performance. At least it sounds like his growls. Those gruff-style vocals that’ve been countering the lead vocals ever since we first heard “The Test for Leprosy” and “Ark of Suffering” (courtesy Gary Lenaire) are here in full power and, dare I say it, glory. Whether it’s slow, separated syllables like “Can’t – make me – hate you” or “all – good – things – died – here,” or the faster cadence of mouthfuls of words in tunes like “The Crushing Weight of Eternity” or “The Peaceful Beauty of Brutal Justice.”
The guitar tones are utter perfection, though. That ever-elusive tone that competes with anyone in the metal scene yet rings unique is here. It’s not easy to dial in these sounds, but distortion, fuzz and crunch are married at full volume – in just about every song. The frantic and searing lead guitar solos by Chris Poland are stellar and fit these songs like a tight black t-shirt.
The drums, as to be expected, pound with power and fly around the kit with speed. Never usurping the collective presentation of the song, though. These songs are like shows within a show – allowing your ears to isolate any one element for a few moments and then settle back in for the big picture.
The lead vocals are good and great. After hearing tidbits of news here and there prior to hearing the album, I was expecting a smorgasbord of lead vocals that would feel like a compilation album. I don’t get that feeling at all. What I and multitudes of Tourniquet fans will notice and appreciate are the high-bent vocals that King Diamond introduced way back when and Guy Ritter so deftly presented on the first three albums. Not quite as high pitched as King Ritter, but perfectly acidic nonetheless. Kudos to Tim “Ripper” Owens for nailing these tunes (as well as Deen Castronova, who knew he could sing, on the title track).
I need to mention the chaotic additives that make things even more interesting (a la “Skeezix Dilemma”), like the intro to “Can’t Make Me Hate You,” the young girl in "All Good Things Died Here" or MLK's political speech excerpt in “Longing for Gondwanaland.”
*The subtitle above is not meant to totally imply that this outfit ever departed from greatness, but for the sake of a point, let's assume they dropped from their highest plateau after the fourth album.
Yeah, this album pretty much sounds like all your favorite Tourniquet songs rolled into one. Or, dare I say it, a Metallica album. Bravo! The only thing missing, which only time and multiple listens will tell, is if it’s chock full of hits or not. For now, though, all I wanna do is hit repeat. [Pathogenic] Doug Van Pelt