Released: 2006, Escapi Music
Reviewer: Lord of the Wasteland
The end of the eighties saw the thrash scene reach an apex where the sheer number of bands emulating the sound of Slayer, Testament, Metallica, Megadeth, Anthrax, Overkill, Exodus and Dark Angel was staggering. If it wasn’t hair metal, it was thrash metal and many excellent bands simply couldn’t compete leaving some forgotten gems languishing in obscurity.
Case in point: Torture’s 1989 album, STORM ALERT. Released only in Mexico and the U.K. at the time, Escapi Music has unearthed this treasure and given it proper treatment. Hailing from El Paso, Texas, Torture was just a bunch of high-schoolers who loved Celtic Frost, Dark Angel and the surge of thrash metal. A chance meeting with the head of a Mexican label saw the band record and release 1987’s TERROR KINGDOM EP, which was an underground tape-trading phenomenon on both sides of the Atlantic. STORM ALERT was the band’s full-length debut but only garnered release in England as an indie, never getting a North American domestic issue. Splitting up and returning to university, the band left behind a legacy that vocalist/guiraist Tom Hicks re-imagined in 2004 when he began remixing and remastering STORM ALERT. Neil Kernon (Cannibal Corpse, Nevermore, Nile) and Alan Douches (Shadows Fall, Sepultura, Mastodon) put the finishing touches on the album and it is shocking that STORM ALERT never saw the light of day. Drawing heavily from the riffing and brutality of bands like Infernal Majesty, Slayer, Exodus and early Annihilator, STORM ALERT is ensconced in everything that made late-eighties thrash so good. The lyrics surround your typical occult/metaphysical/dark subject matter and the leads and riffing of Hicks and J.D. Robins, respectively, are a real highlight. STORM ALERT could easily be placed alongside DARKNESS DESCENDS, EXTREME AGGRESSION, BONDED BY BLOOD and NONE SHALL DEFY as “must-have” thrash. Pity it has taken seventeen years to get here.
“Ignominious Slaughter” is fast, brutal and dark, evoking HELL AWAITS-era Slayer and Infernal Majesty’s underground classic, NONE SHALL DEFY. Hicks’ speedy vocal delivery and sinister roars (“I…will…slaughter…YOUUUUUUU!”) are matched with a blazing solo and neck-snapping riffs from Robins. “Dwell Into Surreality” is a long, epic track that builds from a swelling intro to a mid-paced moody ride through darkness. At eleven minutes, things definitely could have used some trimming to maximize the desired effect. Hicks’ vocals here sound similar to ex-Annihilator screamer Randy Rampage and the track also boats a “guest guitar shred” by former Nitro axeman, Michael Angelo Batio. “Slay Ride” is a campy trip with ludicrous lyrics (remember the band members were still in high school when it was written) but what an evil slice of mid-paced, Christmas-themed thrash! Like “Ignominious Slaughter,” “Terror Kingdom” and “Enter The Chamber” are nasty, dark and a bonanza of bludgeoning guitar work. Attacking with a punishing ferocity, the riffs here are classic thrash and a sure-fire bet to hook anyone who still dons their high tops, denim and leather to air guitar on their living room couch.
Clocking in at 64 minutes, STORM ALERT runs on a bit too long. Thrash albums were typically in the thirty to forty minute range and the extra time is really felt with two added tracks (“Dwell Into Surreality” and “Whips Pt. 2”) from an unreleased demo 1991 punching in fifteen more minutes. Still, for a bunch of teenagers, STORM ALERT is a hell of a first effort! Fans of old-school thrash like Dark Angel, Sodom, Slayer, Exodus, Annihilator and Infernal Majesty will really enjoy this album because not only does it come from that era but it really is on par with those bands’ storied material, as well. There are always afterthoughts and “should have been” stories but like the unfortunate troubles of Infernal Majesty, Torture surely missed the boat. Not everything is perfect here but for a slice of undiscovered thrash, STORM ALERT is a diamond in the rough.
KILLER KUTS: “Ignominious Slaughter,” “Dwell Into Surreality,” “Slay Ride,” “Terror Kingdom,” “Enter The Chamber”