Written by Kep
Tormentor Tyrant – Tormentor Tyrant
Releasing January 28 via Everlasting Spew Records
Let’s talk about pedigree for a moment. What’s a Pedigree, you ask? It’s a kneeling double underhook facebuster, made famous by wrestler Triple H when he began using it as his signature finisher during the mid-90’s, but that’s not important right now. What we’re talking about is the history of something, and specifically the kind of history that establishes certain expectations of quality. Tormentor Tyrant has a damn impressive pedigree, and as such there is good reason to expect great things out of their music, but are they able to live up to it?
Let’s establish those credentials and make sure the case is clearly laid out. While this new trio was established in 2020 and is offering up their self-titled debut EP on Friday, all three members of the band are longtime veterans of the extreme music scene in Finland. Bassist/vocalist M.Malignant is a founding member of Corpsessed and Tyranny and is also in Profetus, while drummer J.Carnage and guitarist/vocalist S.Envenom are both founding members of death/doomers Cataleptic and played together for years in the mighty Solothus. You see? The expectations are already rising, and that’s before I tell you that their mission is to play true OSDM—the kind that eschews downtuning and calls back to when death and thrash were hard to distinguish from one another—a la the originators of the genre.
So the pedigree is excellent and the vision is crystal clear and commendable, and all that’s left is the part that matters most: execution. I find it to be a bit of a mixed bag, with more things that stand out on the positive side than the negative but some weaker moments that will likely be cleaned up by the band going forward to their next release. The opening title track is a clear standout, as is closing track “Galaxy-Wide Terror”. The former rollicks back and forth between a massively punishing triple meter riff that swings like a sledgehammer and a bruising thrashy sprint in 4, while the latter takes a mid-tempo death metal chug intro and then uses an expansively doomy melodic riff to transition through a couple monstrously violent assaults. There’s no denying that Tormentor Tyrant are committed to that early-90s OSDM vibe; I thought of Deicide and Grave several times, and the thrash components that bring outfits like Cancer and Ripping Corpse to mind are plentiful. The band shies away from anything fancy, like atmospheric effects and progressive elements, focusing in tightly on unbridled aggression spearheaded by a bristling two-headed vocal attack.
The thing that elevates those bookending tracks is the dynamic way they transition riff to riff, keeping the listener on their toes with blow after bludgeoning blow but never attacking from the same angle for too long. “Primal Evil”, the EP’s midpoint, does that well, too; it also has my favorite riff on the release, a delightfully evil tremolo-picked figure near the beginning that steers the song wickedly downwards into hellish depths. “Eternal Torment” and “All-Seeing Eye”, though, aren’t as dynamic, and the listening experience suffers for it. It’s not that they’re bad—far from it, they’re quite solid OSDM tracks—but they’re more straightforward affairs and feel more run-of-the-mill. The aggression never dials back, but I found that my interest level did, even if it wasn’t drastically.
On a more practical note, the instruments all sound great (a hat tip to M.Malignant for recording and mixing, and to H.Sorvali for a good mastering job) and the production absolutely nails that abrasive but not lo-fi aesthetic we associate with 90s death metal acts. The lyrics, all by S.Envenom, are a high point as well, painting a vivid and savage picture of violent retribution for mankind’s many sins. It’s fervent, intense stuff: the passage in the title track where the words “Tormentor tyrant” are manically repeated by one vocalist while the other lists the titular tyrant’s murderous qualities is downright feral.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Tormentor Tyrant looks to be the next in a long line of Finnish death metal bands that are designed to inflict maximum damage on your goddamn face. A mix of excellent tracks and tracks that are just good doesn’t make for a perfect debut, but this self-titled offering is—and forgive me, I’m about to use the “s” word—a sufficiently meaty slab of OSDM. Give it a listen for the pedigree alone; I bet you’ll be satisfied.