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Well, not all debuts are legendary, I guess. Canadian thrash output, Sacrifice, sees to this. "Torment In Fire" is their brutal debut, an excursion in punchy, harsh mini-thrash attacks that for all intents and purposes should have left me reeling. Such is not the case, though. This album is all wrong - the production is atrocious, a number of songs seem half finished, and from what I understand it was done on purpose. Yeah, Sacrifice tried an homage album to the likes of Venom, Possessed, and early Slayer, but the final result is sadly very sub-par and messy.
Like I mentioned, the production is utterly a mess, one of the worst I've ever heard. The bass and guitars are mixed in such a way that half the time all you're hearing is a distorted mish-mash of white noise. The guitars of Rob Urbinati, who also provides the vocals, and Joe Rico are solid enough, I guess. They manage to spit out some pretty good riffs when so inclined, but half the time, especially in faster attacks, their work just gets melded into noise along with the bass, which is nowhere to be found. The drums of one Gus Pynn are the opposite problem, being mixed too high, especially the cymbals, which give off an irritating over-loud distortion. His actual drumming isn't much to sneeze at either, for it's really rather basic thrash drumming. Easily the highlight here are the vocals of Rob Urbinati. He's one of those vocalists that practically makes a band, much like Bobby Blitz in Overkill or Rob Halford. His style pays homage to the gruff harshness of Cronos or Jeff Beccera, but he manages to throw in a number of really nice pounding shrieks that I really dig.
The songs are a mess, often sounding the same or not sounding too great at all. They very much feel unfinished or a few, like "Possession" and "Decapitation", just feel like fucking half songs. Be as brutal as you want, but Slayer did the same crap on "Reign In Blood" and that turned out like crap, too. Sometimes when the guys do try to come up with more structured songs, it still winds up a bit short, like the overlong and repetitive "Burned At The Stake" or the slightly superior time changing stylings of closer "Beyond Death", which probably is one of the better numbers on here if not by much. A few other numbers on here worth merit include the self-titled riffy crusher "Sacrifice", the booming, nasty "Turn In Your Grave", the decent, moody instrumental "The Exorcism", and the catchy, memorable "Infernal Visions".
Overall, I don't think Sacrifice were quite ready for their first full-length studio endeavor. "Torment In Fire" is a haphazard mess of poorly thought-out songs and a really awful production. Some decent moments can be dug up here and there, but you're really gonna have to dig deep into Hell to find 'em. It's a miracle this didn't kill Sacrifice's career, but thankfully it didn't. These guys would improve so far beyond this album in their next that not only does it totally wipe the memory of this one clean from the slate, but equally delivers an unrivaled thrash classic.
1985 was unquestionably a great year for thrash. If 1986 was great for the most famous bands in this field, 1985 will be forever remembered for some of the most violent outputs in the history of this genre. Kreator, Sepultura, Slayer, Possessed and many others contributed to this and Sacrifice were the Canadian troop that fought for it too. Their Torment In Fire album is one of the most brutal and fast efforts in those years. It mixes perfectly the thrash metal to the primordial form of death metal that was growing release after release by several bands.
The songs are generally quite short and they point directly to the core of extremism. There’s no melody or will to slow down. We can also find some more canonical examples of speed/thrash metal too in a song like “Turn In Your Grave” but the up tempo parts are just blowing for power and intensity. The sounds are quite clear but extremely essential and you can hear the old style production very well. Nothing has been pumped in the studio and the volumes are simply those by the instruments. The band itself has inside an insane load of anger and madness.
The compositions sound extremely heavy and twisted especially for the schizophrenic vocals that sometimes reach such a high level of morbidity that can be considered quite ahead, especially for the sick screams. Obviously, in an album like this, you must completely forget about technique and precision. There are several imprecise parts but everything is a simple demonstration of anger and impact. “Homicidal Breath” is truly good during the fast restarts with solos, but a bit unclean when the mid tempo parts are the main important thing.
The power of the rhythmic guitars is unbelievable and during the palm muting riffage, it’s like being overwhelmed by truck at full speed. Sometimes the early Sepultura style is stronger and I dunno if they ever listened to them in those years, but the screams, the morbid atmosphere and the sounds are similar. The sequence “Possession”-“Decapitation”- “Beyond Death” is an unbelievable whiplash on the back for speed and pure anger, ending one of the most intense and violent albums of the 80s and maybe of the 90s.
The only complain I have is the form of the songs, that sometimes is a bit too childish but, considering the very young age of the members (17-18 years old), is more than an acceptable thing. True old school thrashers, beware the impact of Sacrifice!
This album is great. Don't get it wrong by all those negative people afraid of wild records like this. If you're a true metal fan, you will have no problem with Torment In Fire. There are many other records that have a shittier sound than this and they're still great, i.e. "Campo De Exterminìo", "Immortal Force", "Sexual Carnage", "War And Pain", etc....
I personally prefer their second album over this, but it's still fucking killer. The sound is raw, the vocals are demented, and the songs sometimes sound out of control. Great punkish attitude is in the last part of album, giving it an aggressive atmosphere to finish the record.
Except for the silly intro, the songs are all very good, especially the first ones that have all awesome riffs with a great vocal performance. The best is obviously Turn In Your Grave. Dudes, this track rips. A lot. From the cool Iron Maiden-like intro to the end, it bashes and slashes everything. A very good thrasher.
I must agree that sometimes the vocals are a bit silly. In tracks Necronomicon and Decapitation, they don't really do it for me. I still love those songs, but the vocals sound out of place.
If you worship old/evil thrash metal, this is the album you need to get to compliment "Seven Churches", "Morbid Visions" and "Immortal Force". You also need to know that this album is an important piece of metal history as truly one of the first black/death/thrash metal record ever.
“…tears on her cheek, sweat on her brow, it's time to die I will kill her now…”
Some albums stand triumphantly in the eye of time. Some bow down before it. A few are beheaded by it. Sacrifice’s debut is somewhere out there hunched over, hat in hand, but the axeman is scheduled to deliver the death blow to other lps instead. Yeah, Torment in Fire definitely isn’t the Barry Bonds of thrash records from ‘85, but it isn’t a rookie Triple AAA baller either. Actually, the four-piece from the home of the Blue Jays were rookies at this time, tenderfoots who were gleaning inspiration from Slayer, Razor, Exciter, Metallica, and no doubt some others, and while these bands haven’t felt the cold metallic sting of the axeman either, they’re usually thought of in higher arcs of presentation and maturity.
Sacrifice concocts cannibalistic fervor, unrefined thrash vigor, arguable maturity, and a glut of undefined ideas that were probably flowing way too fast for the young quartet, hurl it all into a huge simmering black pot, stir it with a set of pipes that sound like a thousand crows falling to their doom, and almost literally we have Torment in Fire. Hell, sometimes it even sounds like it was recorded inside a cauldron, and the often annoying overloud cymbal work is someone pounding on the side of it with a sledgehammer. But despite all its idiosyncrasies, it’s still an acceptable piece of work.
Since Evil Dead had only been filmed four years prior to this, I don’t sigh as much when I hear intro “The Awakening” and its now generic quote and unceremonious feedback. Nowadays, quoting something from Arnie Schwarzenegger is more refreshing. This bucket of joy squeals into “Sacrifice”, only a slightly above-average track to kick things off, meanwhile “Turn in Your Grave” turns it up a notch with rapid fire vocals and a chorus slightly more hospitable than the rest of the track. At the start, “Homicidal Breath” shows us a docile side to the band, but injections of aggression and a near lack of a chorus throw that idea and the song’s identity. “Warrior of Death” is one of the lp’s speed brokers, fast and untidily intrusive, but has yet to stamp individuality to their sound. “Infernal Vision” is perhaps the most diverse so far, jutting in and out of tempo worlds with a Slayer-esque appeal and finishes off the side.
Cryptically distorted noise mutates into the introductory riff of “Burned at the Stake”, a track menacing with a slow, grim-eyed pace that explodes into a speeding reverie of Rob Urbinanti’s glass-warping screeches, tight tornado riffs, and a pseudo solo that shrills the songs end. “Necronomicon” is another example of Slayer-ism by following the dramatic chorus with a slow, deliberate section and solo, then reinventing itself with another blizzard of white-fisted riffs. Without a word, “The Exorcism” brings forth more speed effort with only one minor blip of melancholy on the track’s Richter scale. Before you know it, “Possession” kicks the instrumental out of the way by calling on some latent hardcore influence, quickly sung, near-hollered vocals the main denominator, but there’s still no denying the thrash undertow. “Decapitation” is another swirl of velocity with more hardcore-ish vocals and a corny chorus that could have been thrown off a ledge. The finale is “Beyond Death”…twisting, groaning feedback doubles as solos, some odd, hurried militant drumwork hamstrings some listeners, more feedback, momentum shifts like my grandmother driving a stick shift for the first time, some weird timing changes…I can see their intent here, attempting to end the album with an arresting jack-of-all-trades impression that instead comes off being audibly verbose and somewhat unspectacular, but hey, they’re young.
And since they’re young, they would improve, mature, prosper, and do it better in two years for Forward to Termination. As for this twelve-tracker, it has its share of rousing moments that collectively don’t spell out ‘classic’. Right now, I don’t think the gang has to worry about the axeman, but who knows in another twenty years.
“…priest reads his rites, vomit strikes his face…”
I have received much criticism for my not-insanely-high opinion of the Sacrifice debut. It's not BAD, but somehow it lacks both historical importance and sheer enjoyability. I'm actually not sure what year this came out. I have heard both 1985 and 1987, and if it were 1985 then perhaps it would rate just a bit higher, but even then, it would stand as a monument to poor production, and little else.
Damning evidence: the 1985 "The Exorcism" demo. This demo sounds similar to the LP, except it is produced MUCH better. Now don't try to convince me that the band's resources became worse when they got actual studio equipment... the difference is a tribute to technique, or the lack thereof. The mix is awful, due to the drums being somewhat overloud, and in the case of the cymbals, so loud that every brass hit turns into a terrible disintegration of pink noise.
What about the songwriting? It's average at best, clutching at straws as I don't really think the band had much of an identity at the time. Unlike "Forward to Termination", where the melodic parts provide effective counterpoints to the brutal vocals and riffs, here it just sounds like average speed/thrash... a slightly NWOBHM-tinged worship of the early Slayer material. A bit of Hell Awaits, some more of Show no Mercy, and also some of the really early stuff creeps in - remember Ice Titan and all? This is faster, but still not much more intense, but it's hard to tell under that blur of production. There is a touch of the 'Canadian' sound of slight 80s over-the-topness, as also evidenced by Anvil, Razor (especially that debut EP) and of course Exciter. Lots of long instrumental passages and speed-metal breaks (see "Exciter" again, especially in "Turn in Your Grave", which could be a Heavy Metal Maniac track if not for the different vocal style) contribute to a somewhat NWOBHM feel, which makes this album not a contender in an extreme-thrash context. By 1985 (which is, I believe, when the songs were written, never mind the release date), we certainly had Chemical Warfare to show us the way, and also death metal was rearing its ugly head.
To call this album an ideological failure would be a bit too harsh, but it's not really much of a success either. A lot of people call this brutal, but it's really just overdistorted and underproduced... it really sounds like they were trying for a Venom/Bathory sound, but had listened to too much Exciter, and were caught between two worlds. While Venom pulled off the "let's play much more poorly than we technically can" aspect, Sacrifice did not. Fortunately, their songwriting, playing, and production would all improve on the next three albums. But here, it seems a bit forced and awkward, and starts to really run out of ideas by the end, as Beyond Death drags on for five minutes, attempting to be too many things at the same time - slow parts, fast parts, all thrown together in Cliff's Notes form... "Flames of the End", this is not, and nor is it Eight Minute "Tormentor" (from the Slayer 3/28/83 live recording).
If you like speed metal and thrash metal, and are not opposed to some really grim production, then you may as well pick this up. But don't expect something along the lines of Morbid Visions or Endless Pain... it's just not in that league. But do check out the first demo, which surprisingly is more enjoyable.