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A surprisingly enjoyable demo - 73%

Thiestru, July 24th, 2010

So here we have the demo from the guys who would later bring us the very good 'Pandemonium', for which they are mostly known. Considering that 'A Soul in Hell' came out ten years before that release, we might expect an undeveloped sound and poor production. Well, happily, that's only partly true.

First, for a demo, the 'production' is quite good. Every instrument is clear and relatively well balanced, and the band as a whole sounds heavy. This isn't one of those overly trebly or fuzzy demos. So everything's good with the sound quality, except that someone apparently cranked up the volume on the last song; 'Suffocation' is MUCH louder than the other songs, making me actually have to turn the stereo down just to maintain the illusion of volume consistency. Very odd, but whatever, it's a demo.

Now, the songs themselves are mostly winners. They're basically prototypes of the style they perfected later on, which is a vicious death/thrash melding, leaning a bit more to the death metal side than the thrash. One major difference here, though, and the only outright negative one, is that the band have this tendency to slow the songs way down at points, repeat a slow riff or two, and basically get stuck in this rut. The title track is the only song here not to suffer from this malady. When it slows down, it's in an effective 'early '90s death metal' way, helping to create an ominous mood. It's similar in the other songs, but somehow just doesn't work as well. In fact, I get the sinking feeling at times that they're going for 'groove', but thankfully they don't descend to full-on 'Chaos AD'-type dreck. The rest of the time, Torture Squad treats us to aggressive thrashy death metal riffs, pounding drums with the occasional blastbeat, and Vitor's ferocious shrieks and growls. This never gets as psychotically fast and technical as 'Pandemonium', but the seeds of that are here.

Despite having heard 'Pandemonium' and knowing what this band is capable of, I really didn't expect much from this demo, but it turned out to be a damn enjoyable listen. Even the flaws I mentioned are easily forgivable, considering their youth and assuredly limited wherewithal. I assume that this demo is hard to find, and I consider myself lucky to have been able to snag it, but if you do run across it, don't pass it by. Torture Squad's humble demo proves itself more than just an interesting curio.