I must admit to being excited whenever I see a new release from APF Records crop up. The label is clearly a labour of love for its driving force Andrew Paul Field, and luckily, he seems to have damned good taste (or at least taste that largely aligns with my own!). With this and Desert Storm’s new record coming out in quick succession, I’d think it’s fair to say they’re starting 2023 on a bit of a roll.
So here we have TORSO’s debut album (or is it a mini-album, or an EP?… more on that later) entitled A Crash Course in Terror. The title is entirely apt, as TORSO serve up sludgy, fuzzed-up horror rock. It isn’t heavy enough to scare small animals, but at the same time, it is dirty and scuzzy enough to be an ’18 certificate’ experience, as every good piece of horror entertainment should be.
TORSO is the brainchild of Graham Bywater, fresh from the disbanding of his previous band Possessor. With the exception of a few keyboard parts from studio collaborator Wayne Adams, this is essentially a solo Bywater project, so whether we will ever see TORSO in the ripped and flayed flesh is anyone’s guess!
The album starts with what is intended to be late ‘70s/early ‘80s video nasty-type soundtrack music. Unfortunately, perhaps because I was born right in the middle of that period, this sort of music doesn’t automatically bring to mind Dario Argenta or David Cronenberg – instead it makes me want to go and play Commodore 64 games. Seriously, I have been longing to play The Last Ninja on the beloved Commy ever since I first heard this track.
With my very particular sense of memories aside, this intro does a good job of establishing the mood for when the first track really kicks in. Heads Start To Roll announces TORSO to the world in a barnstorming fashion. It’s heavy and filthy, but at the same time very, very catchy from a melodic point of view – and that goes for each of the four main tracks here – the vocal and guitar melodies are stellar.
Who does it sound like? Well, if I had to point to other existing bands (which I’d have to, because pointing to bands that don’t exist wouldn’t be very helpful) then I’d possibly say Kvelertak – they share the same spirit of reckless abandon in their music – crossed with Torche, for the melodic guitar interplay. Aesthetically speaking I’d argue that TORSO could sit next to fellow APF Records band Video Nasties in the genre stakes, although their sound veers far closer to the likes of Carcass than A Crash Course In Terror dares to.
Pick any Friday or Saturday night and bookend a viewing of Evil Dead 2 with the spinning of some TORSO – it’ll be a night well spent…
Song number two, Sinking Spell, begins with a bass riff that brings to mind the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion at their heaviest. It’s a rumbling and throbbing riff that drives the majority of the five minutes. Sinking Spell also features probably the best guitar solo to be found on the record, but I’m splitting hairs here, as the guitar work is great throughout.
So far so good, but I do have to pause to mention one issue that bothered me from the get-go. Whilst this is billed as TORSO’s debut album, what we have here is twenty-nine minutes of content, eight minutes of which is made up of the mood-setting intro and interludes. Now I’m all for artists bringing the listener with them via techniques outside of the notion of a traditional song, but in this case, I think a shorter running time and more of a focus on the four songs would have reaped benefits.
The first couple of times I listened to A Crash Course In Terror, I of course listened to it cover to cover, so to speak. But after that, I experimented with skipping the interludes altogether, and what I ended up with was an absolute monster of an EP which, to my ears, had just as much of a B-movie feeling as the full album, but without the arguable loss of momentum. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure many of you will think I’m talking absolute bollocks and think it’s total blasphemy to even consider disrupting the artist’s intentions. But to those people, I would say that in the eight minutes that I saved, I managed to listen to four Misfits songs whilst going online to order a frankly marvellously cool TORSO t-shirt, so I win.
Back to the actual music, and third track-proper, Precious Blood, which is undoubtedly my favourite track here. The riffs are fantastic and the whole thing just has a fierce drive to it which I find really infectious. Incidentally, it also has a fantastic video to go along with it, so once you get to the end of this review, click play to sample even more splatter-horror goodness.
After the final interlude, Death TV, Circuit Breaker Breaker closes out the album, and from a tempo and riff perspective, this is where TORSO sound most like a cross between latter-day Electric Wizard and prime Depeche Mode. The track really opens up at the two minute forty second mark with another stonker of a riff which will stick in your mind long after the end of the album. If there is one standout element to TORSO’s beautiful noise, it really is these riffs. If Mr. Bywater had been stingy, he probably could have eked out eight or nine good songs from the riffs on display here, but thankfully instead he’s chosen to give us four monsters.
In summary, we have another fine release from APF Records; this is an album that absolutely any fan of metal and horror should certainly give a go. Pick any Friday or Saturday night and bookend a viewing of Evil Dead 2 with the spinning of some TORSO – it’ll be a night well spent.
Scribed by: David J McLaren