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Brazilians death/thrashers Torture Squad were only recently discovered abroad, although they were already pretty popular in their native country. They made a big splash in the underground with their incredible “Pandemonium” album, released in 2003. That album is all that a thrash or death metal fan would ask for. Speed, riffs, whatever.
“Pandemonium” is like a more brutal, extreme version of this album. “The Unholy Spell” has the same central idea of its successor: complex songs, speed, variety in the riffage and catchiness. This one is just a little bit less mature, but this won’t hurt this album in nothing. One can trace a comparison between Torture Squad and Sadus: There is technique, complexity, but also a whole lot of cool riffs and entertaining value. Exactly like Sadus, the core here is the rhythm guitar (there are few solos here). The death metal riffage is more prevalent here, but the thrash influence is pretty can be easily found in the songs. Listen to the first part of “Spiritual Cancer”, till the vocals to kick in to see how much riffs can they write, without making the songs tiresome or recycled. It’s guaranteed that this is going to please fans of both styles. And also, I need to say, ripping off riffs is not cool but when you go for something like the first riff of a song like “Darkness Descends” that’s passable. Listen to the first one at “Under The Wings of the Empire” and tell me these riffs are different! Just don’t do it again…
The instruments work very well together. Although they aren’t as techinical as Sadus, there are some pretty neat interplay here and interesting songwriting. “Under The Wings of Empire” has a cool fast-slow verse structure. “The Host” has also two excellent fast sections tied together, followed by a midpaced one, which is a riff salad. The title track has one of the coolest metal choruses ever done, consisting of thrash and death riffs, blastbeats and the great duet of both vocalists (the deep growl and the black-metallish shriek). “Reality is the unholy spell! Listen to the final bell!” You can’t help singing along. The chorus for “Area 51” is also very cool. “Warmonger” is also pretty nice and memorable, as anything in this album. The drummer is also worthy of note, never abusing the blastbeats and giving the songs that rush of speed that we all like. Even the bass is audible, and some little fills and solos are also thrown in for more variety.
If you like your thrash or death metal with lots of riffs, variety and of course aggression (not as much as Pandemonium, though) get this album. I'm sure that any track here is worth of your attention.
Well, I can say that I should have heard this album before I heard “Pandemonium”. When I had listened to that straight forward kickass piece of thrash which “Pandemonium” is, I certainly wanted to know what other Torture Squad albums sound like. And so as I ran across this one at Wacken Metal Market, I picked it up immediately and couldn’t wait till I get to hear it. And here’s what I got:
Of course, a huge fuckin’ load of real metal! You probably could ask what makes it so “metal”? Firstly, it’s tons of crushing heavy riffs that automatically make you bang along; secondly, the totally insane snarls and growls – a stunning vocal performance. Thirdly, it’s all supported by ultraprecise and technical drum work. All this as well as a decent production make “The Unholly Spell” a well done aggressive deathy thrash metal album that is always pleasure to listen to.
But why I can’t say it is as awesome as their next album, “Pandemonium”? Mostly because “The Unholy Spell” sounds somewhat immature compared to it. The songs lack consistency a little bit; yes, they are complex, with lots of breaks and tempo changes, but sometimes the the different parts just don’t fit together very well – the headbanging feel often gets interrupted too soon. Although I don’t consider this to be a major flaw overall, it can get a little disturbing. Another thing that isn’t exactly the best one – the solos, IMHO there are too few of them. On the whole it seems like Toture Squad were still developing their songwriting skills with this album yet.
All in all it’s still a very good album, it is like jewel that needs to get polished. As for the standout tracks I’d pick the title song “The Unholy Spell”, “Welcome Home (The House of Eternal Night)” and “Under the Wings of Empire”. No throwaway tracks or fillers on here, except for the bonus track – “A Soul in Hell”, recorded live, because of quite poor record quality (bass isn’t audible at all and in general this sounds like from the horses arse). And yeah, I almost forgot to mention that “The Unholy Spell” has cool cover art (painting by Jean Delville, circa 1900).