Album: A Crash Course in Terror
Label: APF Records
Release date: 27 January 2023
Sounds like: John Carpenter fighting Michael Myers soundtracked by Motorhead on fire.
When all good things come to an end, you often think – “ah that’s it, nothing but disappointment from now on.” Hold your horses though. When London’s Possessor decided to throw in the towel after their final release, the excellently noxious and rabid, The Speed Of Death EP, there was much dismay in the APF Records camp. However, crawling from this freshly dug grave, before you have a chance to salt the earth properly, Torso rises. The brainchild of Possessor frontman, Graham Bywater, Torso continues the themes set out by Possessor but embraces full 70s and 80s horror with soil-encrusted hands and a nasty bite.
First of all, I absolutely love the first minute and a half of this. It’s like someone pressing play on an old 80s VHS; I can picture the synthwave graphics flying in, the tape tracking bar flickering across the bottom of the screen, the John Carpenter-esque sounds that tie it all together, and then suddenly “TORSO!” is announced and it crashes headlong into this driving bass-riff, a rolling blast of crusty, horror-punk; imagine Zeke but wearing corpse paint. Heads Start to Roll is like the opening chapter of some kind of schlocky, horror movie – it’s flamboyant, boisterous, and brimming with axe-swinging debauchery.
The second track, Pranks, deviates somewhat from the teeth-rattling, white-knuckle ride of the opener and is a more ambient piece, but no less sinister. Possibly reversed vocals, drugged-out, haze-inducing keyboard flourishes, distorted voices and cries (possibly of help) are melded together in this miasma of unsettling, trippy noise.
The groove on Sinking Spell is deliciously infectious; Bywater’s harsh vocal bark, is suitably distorted through the gritty production as he chants “dead or alive?” like some maniacal executioner, whilst the grinding guitars and bruising percussion crunches past with vicious, post-punk energy, a glammy, 70s rock ‘ n roll strut, with the heavy use of samples woven in for good measure. There’s more ambient noise on the way with Depth Charge, at 2 minutes in length, it’s brief, with the familiar distorted vocals, buried in feedback, chanting “TORSO!” at every opportunity, with this echoing, reverb, scrawling guitar and eerie, ghost-like chimes to really cement the fear and unease.
The clear stand-out track on A Crash Course In Terror is of course, the thumping Precious Blood. “SOULS LAID BARE ON A FOREST FLOOR!” Roars Bywater and the line “YOU CAN’T KILL ME, BECAUSE I’M ALREADY DEAD!” sets the scene of this macabre, slasher-movie track that is laden with swirling, fuzzed-out noise, stocky, stoner-rock grooves in the vein of the must-missed Torche and the charming tongue-in-cheek riff-tastic silliness of Red Fang.
The third interlude, Death TV (great name) feels more sci-fi than the previous, horror-based efforts, taping into elements of drone and this weird hypnotic rhythm, but sadly, isn’t as interesting as the previous two and feels a bit throwaway.
At nearly 8 minutes, the final track, Circuit Breaker Breaker is the longest track on A Crash Course in Terror and perhaps the most intriguing. Here we have the best use of the samples; they are intertwined expertly at the start, as this progressive stampede of spluttering, retro heavy rock noise spews forth with sinister menace. Bywater’s whispered vocals of “break…the circuit” herald this bombastic shred of rolling horror rock, which is all flamboyant riffage, and sporadic air-guitar worship and feels absolutely breakneck in execution, tapping into that Carpenter Brut (yep) synth-rock crossover worship perfectly and brings to mind the themes of Alan Silvestri or Brad Fiedel on the Terminator soundtrack – that implacable, infectious sound that won’t stop until you are dead.
To conclude, A Crash Course In Terror is a great starting point for Bywater and Torso – it taps into the many great things that made Possessor such a unique and interesting band and Torso just amps up the terror and inventiveness to new levels. Would love to see more of that crossover into synthwave as Torso’s sound progresses – let’s see what the next album brings.
You can purchase, stream, and scream your face off to A Crash Course in Terror by Torso via the link below.