Album: A Crash Course In Terror
Label: APF Records
Release Date: January 27th, 2023
Location: London, UK
If the month of January had an award for “Best Energy In An Album” I would vote that it goes to TORSO for A Crash Course In Terror, because this album just goes hard from start to finish and has fun while doing so.
UK act TORSO is a fresh new project in the world of fuzz and brings a unique blend of sounds, styles and aesthetics to the table. Their quality should come as no surprise given that the man behind the music is Graham Bywater of former UK sludge/stoner/thrash metal act Possessor. Similarly, to Possessor, the project’s sound is a blend of stoner/sludge metal but with added punk and grunge influences and all of it is presented through the lens of a classic grindhouse film. In fact, Graham calls this style of music ” grindhouse rock”. Not only does this aesthetic suit the album’s overall sound and energy but it bleeds over into its album art, music videos and general essence as a project, and I have to say that I’m all for it.
If you’re wondering what exactly grindhouse is, that’s okay, because I thought it was worth explaining for anyone who isn’t familiar:
Grindhouse is an aesthetic originating in the 1970s involving the poor living conditions of ghettoes, cheap, low-budget genre films, and decaying urban sprawl. The name is derived from lower-class cinemas, or Grindhouses, which would produce and screen films which today escape the public eye. While many grindhouse films separate themselves from their mainstream counterparts in their unflinching and unwavering dedication to accuracy and lewd, often borderline disturbing content, most are not pornographic in nature.
This aesthetic seeps over into auditory form as the music itself takes on a kind of grime and sleaze, but also a sort of raw and gritty quality. To add to this, the band have incorporated soundtrack style elements on the album that feel as if they came straight out of a classic low budget film from the period. These help the listener to fully embrace the concepts behind the album and add a whole new depth of sound to the overall makeup of the release.
Musically the album is high energy and moves at a fairly fast pace, backed by an impressive level of power and swagger. There’s a definite stoner/sludge base but it’s backed by a punchy punk energy that drives the unstoppable momentum behind each track. The guitar tone on the release is balanced perfectly between distorted crunch and groovy fuzz, with a constant back and forth between the two as is needed. Riff-wise you won’t be disappointed with what’s on offer, as the album is extremely headbangable. The bass work is crucial to the overall sound of the release, adding a ton of depth and a bouncy punk energy. The drum work isn’t anything revolutionary for the most part, but does its job well, helping drive the energy behind each track. However, there are times when the drums open up into an old school almost soundtrack style sound to back the guitar which is doing the same and I can’t get enough of these moments.
Vocally I’m reminded of a mix between Venom’s Kronos’ vocal tone and delivery and High On Fire’s Matt Pike’s energy and swagger. There’s a grittiness and sleaziness there but it’s only an external coating, beneath that is an almost heavy metalesque delivery with some power backing the belted-out offerings. These vocals are easily understandable which allows for the album’s lyrical themes to shine through, themes that draw upon concepts rooted in the grindhouse realm.
I love the album as a whole but if I had to pick a favourite track I would go with the closer Circuit Breaker Breaker. It’s just a total banger of a song that has an impressive amount of variety to it. On top of that it has a huge amount of swagger, there’s some awesome almost soundtrack type elements in parts and the vocals are some of my favourite on the album.
Overall, I’m a big fan of the direction that Graham has gone in with TORSO. I was obviously pretty upset when Possessor broke up, but I now see that I haven’t lost anything, as its legacy continues here in a new form. If you like punked up fuzz laden metal then do not miss A Crash Course In Terror.
Listen to and order the album: