TOURNIQUET - Gazing At Medusa
Editorial Note: Ok, so I'm a bit late to the game … what's new. Van Pelt and Gatto have already nicely reviewed this, and so I spent some time debating if I should even add my 2 cents. But as I come at this from a slightly different perspective - sharing some feelings and observations with each of them - I thought it might be worth posting. And, if you can even imagine, I went so far as to rate it with a number. - Doc.
Gazing At Medusa should by all rights (looking at the cover and the song titles) be an absolutely scorching listen beginning to end. No doubt, things start out well with “Sinister Scherzo” – trademark Tourniquet riffs, classical influence and biting lyrics. Similarly, the closing title track is quite spectacular, those Dean Castronova vocals stellar. But solid bookends don’t necessarily make for a great read. Sadly, from a musical standpoint, this is one of the weakest of all of the Tourniquet releases. It’s hard to put words as to why these songs just don’t jump out of the speakers and capture my unrelenting attention. I’ve spent weeks, actually, trying to figure out why this isn’t the case.
The problem is not the robust sound mix or production. The guitars and drums shred with conviction throughout and this recording sounds plenty good at volume “11.” And it certainly isn’t the lyrical content. I was a bit worried about that this time around, but after multiple listens and trips through the lyric booklet, this is some challenging and insightful, spiritually “spot on” material. Okay, so what about the vocals? I will state up front that Owens is not my favorite metal singer – his vocals solid, yet not spectacular – but I sense that what bothers most about his performance here doesn’t have anything to do with his individual vocal quality or ability. I would argue that, instead, this music wasn’t written to showcase his strengths. And therein, I think, is the crux of the issue. The reason these songs don’t resonate as well with me (at least when compared to the bulk of Tourniquet’s excellent back catalog) has nothing to do with any of the musicians’ individual performances, but more to do with weaker (or at least somewhat repetitive and directionless) song writing.
There are too many slower repetitive sections, so the songs don’t maintain their intensity and focus throughout. “Longing For Gondwanaland” starts out wonderfully, but at about the 2:30 mark when things slow down, the guitars plod and they just never recover – the repeating chant goes on too long and then transitions to the narrative of MLK. Then there is an awkwardly placed solo – perfectly executed – but seemingly out of place. The doomy riffs are awesome, but are revisited a bit too frequently (“Memento Mori” and “Can’t Make Me Hate You”). These two songs have such wonderful lyrics, yet musically do not engage. There are too many overly strained vocals that don’t match the music. Some of the narrative is interesting to give the music context, but too much for my taste on these songs.
Despite the somewhat disjointed feel to many of these songs, there are islands of brilliance between those two bookends. “All Good Things Died Here” mixes a nice thrashy romp with the slower riff section in mid-era Megadeth style, and keeps things moving along toward a percussive conclusion. Similarly, “The Crushing Weight Of Eternity” – which features Guerra’s patented vocal catharsis – is a song that reaches back and taps into the Tourniquet roots. It’s a complex song, but the flow is good. “One Foot In Forever” is also a winner – faster pace, technical drum brilliance, some well-placed punchy riffs, great lead guitar solo and a good melody to boot.
Unlike most of the band’s material, which is highly infectious, these songs are best appreciated with a lot of patience and time. Gazing At Medusa is a solid release, one most fans will likely enjoy, but for me personally, I would like to hear Tourniquet steer future efforts more toward the direction of the title track and “One Foot In Forever.” 3.75/5
Release Date: Out Now
1. Sinister Scherzo (5:50)
2. Longing For Gondwanaland (5:46)
3. Memento Mori (4:22)
4. All Good Things Died Here (4:52)
5. The Crushing Weight Of Eternity (6:17)
6. The Peaceful Beauty Of Brutal Justice (5:06)
7. Can’t Make Me Hate You (4:02)
8. One Foot In Forever (4:59)
9. Gazing At Medusa (4:12)