A TORTURED SOUL – Tomorrow’s Door
Written by John Payne
You might have guessed from A Tortured Soul’s name that they’re a metal band. But judging from the ten urgently recorded songs on Tomorrow’s Door, they aren’t interested in simply being a metal band. It sounds like they want to be the metal band. Or at least, the old school metal band. Thoroughly devoid of anything that sounds even remotely similar to nu-metal, Tomorrow’s Door sounds like it could’ve come out in 1986. For fans of classic metal, that is cause for celebration.
It all starts with appropriately named vocalist Rick Black, who is essentially the archetypal metal singer. His voice is high-pitched and a slightly homely. It’s not enough to detract from the music, but just enough to sound eerie and hard-edged. His falsetto is just fucking otherworldly. It’s almost scary, high-pitched as hell, and much more like King Diamond than Geddy Lee. It’s one thing to hit a super-high metal falsetto note, it’s something else entirely to change notes and sing melodic phrases while doing it, as Black improbably does on several songs. The manner in which Black’s vocals are recorded is also crucial to his sound. They are made to sound like they fill an infinite space, and are coming from inside your head, especially as he slowly descends a scale during the verses of “Poltergeist.”
Give the guitarists their due as well, who are virtual encyclopedias of metal guitar stylistics. Speedy thrash riffs can be found on most of the tracks, often made to sit alongside clean and melodic minor key passages. Slower, sludgier riffs are not uncommon either. The frequent appearances of shrieking artificial harmonics, such as in the closing riffs of “Not Tonight,” recall the late, great Dimebag Darrell. Most impressively of all, lead guitarist Nate Gorenc somehow manages to make two-handed tapping sound cool on “Poltergeist.” Because their playing is so against the grain of most current mainstream hard rock, it does not matter at all that a couple riffs sound almost exactly like the main riff from Metallica’s “Master of Puppets.”
The rhythm section is perhaps more functional than extraordinary compared to the vocals and guitars, but it is tight knit and holds everything together. Bassist Wes Tesch throws in some great lead licks and fills from time to time, with the coolest of these found on album opener “Cut & Bleed.”
Despite its pervasive brutality and heaviness, Tomorrow’s Door never eschews melody, thanks in part to the playing of Gorenc and rhythm guitarist Stefan Bohl, but especially thanks to Black, who even during the fastest, heaviest passages keeps the vocal lines clear and memorable.
Tomorrow’s Door may sound a bit dated to some listeners, and has next to no chance of appealing to non-metal fans, but this should make it even more appealing to die-hard metal-heads. A Tortured Soul doesn’t navigate any uncharted hard rock territory, but their execution is precise and reverent. Their love of the genre is palpable in every track.