TOURNIQUET- Gazing at Medusa
Tourniquet fans are obsessive. When a band comes out of the box with 2 classics like Stop the Bleeding and Psycho Surgery, fans are going to pore over every detail of each album and development with a magnifying glass. Many were upset when original singer Guy Ritter left. Now the Tourniquet sound has been typeset for many years by Luke Easter's vocals, so his departure was met with much anticipation. Who would the new singer be, and how would that change the band's sound?
This time around, the band is rounded out by guest appearances. Ex- Megadeth shredder Chris Poland is tapped to play lead guitar and his work really shines. It's been a while since we've seen Tourniquet with two guitarists, and it's great to hear Poland and Guerra (of considerable talent himself) trading leads. Tim "Ripper" Owens takes over the mic for the bulk of the album. A world class singer whose resume includes Priest, Iced Earth, Yngwie, and Dio's Disciples, I was excited to hear what this man would bring to the table. Sadly, it is his vocals that dull an otherwise excellent release for me. Ripper never shows the true potential of his voice. When he sings, you get a flashback of Guy Ritter's voice, and in spite of a great start on "Sinister Scherzo", for too many of the songs Tim just speaks the lyrics. Listen in "Memento Mori" where Ripper's take on the verse "I know the plans I have for you..." is drawn out and creepy, instead of hopeful. Aaron Guerra steps it up with his hardcore bgvs on this album. His voice was close enough to Luke Easter's that you may not have noticed the extent of his vocal contributions on previous albums, but here he trades his shouts with Ripper's vocals in an interplay that brings some of the songs to life. Just listen to Guerra and Owens taking turns with the chorus of "The Peaceful Beauty of Brutal Justice"- "Appointed unto man to die, And after that the judgment comes..." Musically, Gazing sounds much like the heavy progressive sounds of most post millennial Tourniquet albums. Unlike the early Tourniquet speed metal/ thrash catalog there is a heavy doom influence with slower passages within songs and even heavier themes- sin and depravity, theodicy, blasphemy of the Spirit, and man's mortality. Perhaps Ted's time drumming for Trouble on the Run Into the Light tour is rubbing off. On the other hand, the title track is performed by Deen Castronova (Journey drummer) and his classic hard rock voice takes the band in another direction entirely for the album's real brightest moment.
So we've got a mixed bag here- even within the same song. Yes, this sounds like latter Tourniquet albums- real progressive. Doomier than usual, and that just might be its downfall. Biblical lyrics as always, not in your face, but always making a point. Heavy themes, which fit the doom theme, I'll allow. Instrumentation is a pleasure to listen to, especially on the faster passages, but with all the time changes you would expect from a Tourniquet album. Double the guitars this time around- double your pleasure. World class drumming- no question there. Vocals really making and breaking the album this time- Aaron and Deen's contributions making it, and Ripper's breaking it. It pains me to say that- just listen to Iced Earth The Glorious Burden or Ripper singing the late Ronnie James Dio's songs to see what he's capable of. Long wait for this album. There's some good stuff here, but I don't hear any classics. Will Tourniquet maintain the band dynamic, or continue to be a assortment of guest appearances? Only Ted can answer that question. (Pathogenic Records) 3.5 out of 5 stars
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