Band – A Torn Mind
EP – Barriers
Label – Self released
Release date – 1st March
Sounds like – jazz meets psych-rock-meets Transformers and Phil Collins.
On ‘Barriersâ€™, A Torn Mind are unsure as to what they want to be in life. Theyâ€™re a shapeshifter, constantly morphing their sound into new and intricate ways, never staying in one form for more than a minute, before erupting into something even more ostentatious and vibrant. In many ways, this could be a turn off â€â€œ it could be argued theyâ€™re not giving enough time to adapt and work on a specific style, preferring to favour the jack of all trades, master of none philosophy. Letâ€™s take a listenâ€Â¦
Opening track ‘Sixes and Sevensâ€™ is so pompous and overblown you can imagine a fat man gyrating to it whilst stuffing himself at an all you can eat seafood restaurant. The guitars whine with complex precision, falling over each other in casting out the sprawling scatter of notes, whilst the drums roll and pound keeping a steady, heavy beat. Suddenly it begins to glitch and shudder; abruptly stopping and force-feeding the slightly hurried, yet overtly keen vocals into the mix. It changes from a quite heavy intro, into a somewhat cheesy, pop-rock bounce, led by 80s-sounding keyboard blasts and overlapping vocal-effects, not to mention the brief inclusion of a brass section. The soft jazz interlude they shoehorn in divides the track nicely; even if it has a ‘sounds like it should be played in some late night Channel 5 eroticaâ€™ (not that Iâ€™d know â€â€œ ahem.) The last half of ‘Sixes and Sevensâ€™ isnâ€™t quite up to the sporadic opening the track promised, but ends in suitable grandeur; with ringing key-shrieks, offset by rambling drums and the fragile, yet gradually-strengthening vocals.
‘Edge of the Worldâ€™ is like listening to a slower version ‘Pretty Hate Machineâ€™ era Nine Inch Nails without Reznorâ€™s trademark bark and swapping the industrial hammer pound of the techno-influenced drums for a more standard, metallic approach. It also has a lot in common with Coheed and Cambria â€â€œ the strange mix of prog-elements and light, pop-rock with synthesised passages give a nod towards the big-haired prog-punkers. Itâ€™s almost smothering â€â€œ technically impressive, layered, twisting rock that splices the roaring, chug of the guitar and bass alongside the weighty and intense keyboards which dominate this track with a striking, yet imposing mood. In fact, remember the old Transformers movie? The one with Orson Welles as Unicron (big fuck-off planet) and some of the most comedy dialogue ever? Well this tune could replace any of the ones created by Stan Bush and no-one would bat an eyelid.
‘Titansâ€™ counterbalances the extravagant and flamboyant eruption caused by ‘Edge of the Worldâ€™ and adopts and more melodic and structured path. It is in this instance where the vocals fit and sound at their strongest. On the more brasher sounding parts of ‘Barriersâ€™ the voice seems a tad weak and constantly battling for attention; like a cat and a dog balancing on a ball in a vain attempt to distract their owners away from the elephant their son won on a radio show. They soar, if thatâ€™s the right expression, on this wave created by the swirling 70s-style guitar drone and the chattering bass groove. At just over the 4 minute mark, ‘Titansâ€™ jerks and twitches from the Jekyll character of calm to the Hyde character of callousness, but again switches back to the melodic route, as if suppressing this sudden fracture in their structure.
Whilst ‘Impurityâ€™ starts off as quite a ominous track, it feels a bit weighed down and scrambles to even hold your attention, which is a shame for a piece of music that started off quite promising. However, it gains momentum and surges into life with a demented piece of jazz-noise-punk scrawl as the saxophone takes control, giving a nod towards Sweep The Leg Johnny-style chaotic fury. The dual-chanting vocals, scattered saxophone parps that swerve in and out give ‘Impurityâ€™ that adrenalin boost and it soon becomes this rising tidal wave of squealing, reverb and overblown, yet structured noise that froths with a sinister urgency.
A Torn Mind must be closet Boston fans. It seems strange that they would mention the likes of Genesis and Pink Floyd, yet fail to mention the Tom Scholz led seventies rockers in their long list of influences. What Iâ€™m referring to is the similarities between the beginning of their track ‘Vitaâ€™ and Bostonâ€™s ‘Foreplay‘. Itâ€™s a frenzied rush of synthesised notes with only the hard edged stop-start drum pattern adding variation. This introduction feels more like a dedication than anything else, juxtaposing that familiar opening outbreak with their own soaring beats. The lead riff is a joyous sound, a stark change from the disturbing elements heard on ‘Impurity.â€™ This closing track is a strange one and a perfect example of the schizophrenic nature A Torn Mind have when it comes to song writing. One minute it hits the high notes with the fist in the air, windswept cry to the heavens of anthemic stadium prog-rock self-pleasure; then it deviates to erratic Dillinger Escape Plan-esque guitar shredding, sounding more like a pissed off hardcore band trying to break through. Praise has to be directed towards the excellent use of samples; which appear in the form of excerpts from speeches, particularly one made by Evangelist, Voddie Baucham who is an advocate of God reigning down fire and brimstone on unbelievers, questioning why the lord delays this outcome. Itâ€™s possibly one of the best use of spoken-word samples Iâ€™ve heard in a long time that perfectly suits the music itâ€™s accompanying. This image of a man screaming to the heavens for the wrath of almighty God to descend down on the sinners is supported by this surging and menacing rush created by A Torn Mind. Itâ€™s creepy how well the two compliment each other â€â€œ you can almost imagine the untold destruction as Baucham implores these terrible events over the crescendo of sound.
For a first release, this is brimming with promise and passion. Through this 5 track, 40 minute juggernaut the different musical directions have been sliced up and scattered throughout, giving a heady mix of what A Torn Mindâ€™s music has to offer. This of course, gives it an unsteady foothold, but those willing to preserve will take to the sudden changes and variations and witness a real talent that isnâ€™t afraid of experimentation.
‘Barriers‘ can be pre-ordered from the band’s myspace here and their EP launch takes place at Sneaky Pete’s in Edinburgh (sold out, so you might need to blag your way in.)
By Ross Macdonald