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Tormentor > Goddess of Love > Reviews
Tormentor - Goddess of Love

A quasi-metallic nymph from Belgium's primordial days. - 71%

hells_unicorn, April 29th, 2019
Written based on this version: 1984, 12" vinyl, Mausoleum Records

It didn't take long for the infectious bug that was the NWOBHM to begin popping out imitators outside of the British Isles, though some of the smaller nations in Western Europe were a bit slower on the uptake than Germany, Sweden and select places in the Americas. Be this as it may, there was a Belgian answer in the works going back to the early 80s, particularly when noting the prolific output of Killer and FN Guns, and the early power metal adherence of Bad Lizard before Halloween had fully developed the European variant of said style. Of lesser note was the one album wonder via Masoleum Records that was Tormentor, auspiciously toting a name identical to one of the hit tracks from W.A.S.P.'s raw and vital debut outing, yet coming out with a sound that was far less dangerous by the standards of 1984. Despite the edgy moniker and their debut outing Goddess Of Love featuring art work that could pass for the extreme end of Judas Priest's 80s output, this band would find themselves playing it fairly safe by heavy metal standards and entering the fray as more of a throwback, rock-oriented affair with a smidge of metallic detailing that was definitely still popular by the mid-80s, but definitely not on the vanguard end of the spectrum.

In all fairness, prior to the release of seminal offerings such as the Helloween EP, power metal was more of a nebulous concept that was all but joined at the hip with traditional and speed-oriented bands, occasionally even dovetailing with the remnant progressive 70s rock sound that coexisted in the NWOBHM via White Spirit, Demon and a couple others. As such, it isn't wholly surprising that a 1984 upstart from Belgium would roll out a version of the style that had more to do with Alcatrazz and Rainbow than concurrent offerings out of Manowar or Helstar. All the same, Tormentor's execution does wind up a tad wanting when compared with the former two bands, largely by playing it a little too safe. Perhaps the greatest Achilles heel is found in vocalist Guido Wolfaert, who sounds like an airy and anti-climactic hybrid of Phil Mogg and Joe Lynn Turner, though lacking the personality of the former and the dynamic range of the latter. The songwriting behind him is reasonably on point and even yields a few classic sing-along moments, and both guitarist Jack Lardot and Keyboardist Joe Puertas manage a few charming mid-80s emulations of Blackmore vs. Lord with the former occasionally showing some Brian Tatler tendencies, but overall the voice leading the fray is maybe a slight cut above a number of flat-voiced front men out of the throngs of the generic end of the early 80s British metal scene.

From start to finish, this album features more of a festive atmosphere in line with a 70s rock romp than an outright forerunner to the nascent power metal scene of the mid-80s. Exceptional offerings that do their best to provide something beyond a typical hard rock package include the speedy, riff happy yet keyboard-steeped anthem "No They Ain't Gonna Catch Me", which gets pretty close to the harder-end of the Alcatrazz sound and features some of the more overt examples of this band's technical abilities in the guitar and keys department, along with the somewhat more driving and lyrically macabre "Night Of Shadows", which stands as the heaviest offering on here and runs along similar lines to a number of Ozzy Osbourne anthems with Randy Rhoads shredding the six-string. Much of the remaining material on here leans far more in the rock direction and ranges from being good catchy fun in the Joe Lynn Turner era of Rainbow sense like "Mean Advice" and "Goddess Of Love", to somewhat generic and overly saccharine-steeped like "Hell Is For Children" and the comically happy rocker "The Joker". Throw in some rather awkward and out of place interludes such as the weird ambient keyboard ditty "Infernal Downtrip" (an obvious nod to Night Of The Demon) and an almost synth-pop sounding short rocker in "Recompense" and the bag goes from mixed to slightly schizophrenic.

More often than not when a band vanishes after either a solitary LP or a brief smattering of singles/EPs, there is a likely reason for it that reaches a bit past the obvious culprits of being from a location less known for the style in question. Saturation of bands playing this style combined with being unable to fully commit to a more metallic edge in a time when the field was just beginning to polarize present a bigger piece of the puzzle, but overall Tormentor just fails to really close the deal and come up with an album that's a bit heavy on filler and wanting for more killer. It's actually a shame because between the relatively solid rhythm section and exemplary performances on the guitar and keyboard, there was potential for this band to put something together that could have rivaled White Spirit and maybe even No Parole For Rock 'N' Roll. Chalk it up to another in along succession of "could've beens" that cycled in and out of the equation throughout the 80s, with this one having the distinction of springing from a location that was less known for it at the time. It's worth a listen for the old school rank and file, but falls short of being something essential even within the niche of Deep Purple inspired, rock-leaning NWOBHM classicism.

A forgotten goddess with few worshippers - 60%

Gutterscream, May 17th, 2017
Written based on this version: 1984, 12" vinyl, Mausoleum Records

“…Satan is king, who are the winners now?

Another early Mausoleum casualty I’m absolutely thrilled I didn’t stumble upon when it hit the stands. It’s no big deal to scoop it up now and lose a few bucks, but in the years when birthday money and couch cushion change ruled my shopping sprees, it would’ve swelled the aversion I already felt for the label as well as colored this fella an unhappy scarlet red.

Prevalent within this virtually unknown Belgian band’s one n’ only, Goddess of Love, is medium-hard rock, bar band AOR that gets a few hairs knocked outta place in metal’s most basic breeze, and that’s the bad news. I guess the more promising news translates into flashes of attractive songwriting and performance that, whatever the style, should be tolerable, if not simply appealing on some level, and as a whole is nine tracks that I can't say try to be something they're not, no matter what we as metal fans assumed to expect. It’s an important factor we often forget, and the fallout – emotions like disappointment, anger, melancholy, frustration – caused by these unfair expectations and assumptions isn’t the band’s problem, but ours.

Conversely, if Goddess of Love was actually the follow-up to a deemed-metal precursor, such fallout would be predicted and naturally (hopefully) better understood by its creators (and would stick us in an alternate timeline dangerously close to when Def Leppard and Jaguar hatched their sell-out plans). I feel this same sense keeps those viewing a film like The Piano from criticizing it because of lack of bloodshed or a notable absence of hip-hop songs, know what I mean?

Kinda bare bones metal aside, I don’t mind declaring there are less stinkers on this disc than on some heavier Witchfynde lps I like to avoid. “No They Ain’t Gonna Catch Me” is the hand hovering above the snooze button; a natural-born hard rock dragster of medium-high Riot energy, aglow with lightly backlit keys peeling out in the lp’s opening spot. Probably nothing more than a coincidence is a song pattern that seems to mirror side one of Ride the Lightning: “NTAGCM” is the like-minded accelerate in “Fight Fire With Fire”, even-keeled and catchy “Mean Advice” is natural songcraft that relies on a smooth sing-songy chorus to toll the bell of story-driven, rhythmically slow-rolled and ultimately drab flight of “Icarus”. Convincing “Hell is For Children” (not a Pat Benatar cover) scratches the obligatory power ballad itch more appealingly than many that have faded out before it.

Things, however, fall off the lightning come side two, for its initial two and half minutes is the whoosh of “Infernal Downtrip”; an out of character, conga n’ keyboard-winded effects ‘instrumental’ that, like the barking of Rex the dog and unintelligible sludge-gurgling-laughed message, fails to convey anything meaningful. “Goddess of Love” shows a partial leg of her plastic new wave shimmy, uncovered further by Guido Wolfaert’s innocently-clean mid/high vocal delivery, which is then overridden by more “Mean Advice”-type stuff, only less interesting. Darkened doorstep “Night of Shadows” is an infectious choice cut of unforeseen brimstone, nuanced with Demon-like “Don’t Break the Circle” character, but withdraws when brighter-eyed “Recompence” lights the way with its lively gait and sociably-plucky keyboards. Ending Goddess of Love is the generic thrum of “The Joker”, riddle-less in its example of rock’s dinner music that should be banished from the forefront in favor of sautéed lima beans. It closes the disc as leftovers often do.

Goddess of Love can be known as a halfway decent, kinda dated hard rock album that here and there finds footing in metal. Or it can be known as a tepid metal album (too) steeped in fairly dusty ‘70s hard rock inspiration. Hey, guys! Welcome to the rock-metal-metal-rock Borderlands, where questionable genre-folding, split opinions, indecisiveness and bias lead the assumption/expectation/blame parade. I’ll bet Tormentor climbed aboard the first description, meanwhile a lot of us sat on the sidelines expecting something better than the second and nuthin’ else. Again, that’s a dilemma we stuck ourselves in.

Admittedly, Mausoleum’s logo, conceivably the band’s moniker and perhaps the patented Mausoleum/Ebony/Guardian-aura sleeve could lure this into metal’s damning criteria. However, in Tormentor’s defense, it's not impossible they had little to no knowledge of the then-current metal scene or any of the unwritten quasi-specs often associated with it, and for all we know had only marginally sampled the menus of those with generally similar tastes, more or less Dedringer, Ace Lane, Praying Mantis, Coney Hatch, Amulet (US-IN), Chevy, Fist (UK), some Krokus and the occasionally flowery palette of Alcatrazz.

...Is that Haydee? - 32%

Tanuki, December 26th, 2016

Exploring obscure metal is just one big lab experiment. You might be one of the smarter test subjects, reflecting on the metal qualities you appreciate until you're lying atop a dragon hoard of hidden gems. I, on the other hand, keep reaching out for album covers with butts on them, hopelessly confused as to why I'm not making any progress. But can you really blame me this time? Doesn't Tormentor's only album Goddess of Love look like an old Judas Priest album that time forgot? I don't think I deserved such a crushing disappointment.

I imagine the likes of Van Halen and Alice Cooper are responsible for instilling doubt in many emerging metal bands around this time, tacitly advising they take a safer approach to metal if they want to see commercial success. That is to say, by not actually playing metal at all. The naive, puppy dog eyes of Tormentor sought guidance from this limpid pop in metal's clothing, and had thus released a profoundly boring 'anthem' album less metal than the average NES soundtrack.

'Icarus' is a microcosm in flaws and in simplicity. Guido Wolfaert is a passable singer, though unmistakably subdued and vexingly predictable. When he sings "Don't fly too low", he hits a low note, and when he sings "Don't fly too high", there's just no telling where the melody will go. Though I begrudgingly give accuracy points to the lyrics, because in case you were wondering, Daedalus actually does warn Icarus not to fly too low, either. But while Tormentor's knowledge of Greek mythology is certainly up to scratch, their knowledge of guitar riffs is severely lacking.

Insultingly basic in this track as well as nearly all others, guitarist Jack Lardot delivers a performance as basic and sterile as a Microsoft Word template. Dreary chords are the bread and butter of this butter sandwich, with a side of beginner's blues rock licks in tracks like 'The Joker'. 'Mean Advice' and 'Hell is for Children' both sound like something Meat Loaf would play to get themselves warmed up, but at least the latter track manages a decent solo near the end. Though by no means a great track, I can also appreciate the faint traces of energy and originality in 'No They Ain't Gonna Catch Me'.

The reason why my score isn't much lower is because the musicianship, as bland and soulless as it is, is still performed competently. So it's a spongecake with no flavor. Just as its unlikely to give you indigestion, I doubt you'll get any satisfaction from it either. At least if a dessert is sickly sweet, tastes terrible, or wreaks havoc on your digestive tract, it's something to talk about. It can be a source of amusement a few hours or days down the road. Goddess of Love won't even give you that courtesy.

Standout tracks:
Hell is for Children

Related (better) listening:
Bad Lizard - Power of Destruction
Van Veen - Over the Universe