Torture Rack - Malefic Humiliation - (9.5/10)
Published on May 24, 2018
There are plenty of different variations on death metal. Some death metal bands incorporate lots of melody; others go the technical route, weedly deedling all day long. Some bands incorporate Morbid Angel darkness and Autopsy sickness; some worship Immolation and Incantation. Then there are bands like Torture Rack. Whereas other death metal bands may take a nuanced approach, incorporating intricate song structures or complex riffing, Torture Rack simply bludgeons. Torture Rack is one of the purest distillations of the essence of death metal out there. Is there melody? Is there complexity? Is there nuance? No, none of the above. Yet they’re one of my favorite modern death metal bands, and they have released one of my absolute favorite albums of 2018 in Malefic Humiliation. So what makes Torture Rack so great?
Simplicity. Torture Rack is the ultimate in no-frills, straight-ahead, filthy death metal. The easiest point of comparison for Torture Rack is early Cannibal Corpse; but, like, if early Cannibal Corpse huffed a bunch of paint and liked to keep a bunch of people hanging on hooks in the basement but admits it immediately when the cops show up because they don’t see the problem with it.
Torture Rack’s biggest strength is simply their ability to write crushing, boneheaded riff after riff. Each song is a whirlwind of pummeling tremolo riffs intermixed with punky goodness. There’s nothing special about these riffs other than their quality, which is top shelf. Well, it’s like top shelf moonshine that an uncle brews and might contain chlorine or something, but you drink it anyway because it gets you messed up really fast. The fellas in Torture Rack are interested in one thing and one thing only: making filthy, short (only one song is over 4 minutes, and many don’t even make it past three), punchy death metal that mutilates you upon each listen.. Take for example, the straight-up sledgehammer of a riff on “Found in Feces,” or the freight train riff of “Destined for Dogmeat.” (If you haven’t noticed, song titles are pretty gross, even for death metal standards.) Contrasting with the blunt force of the riffs, the solos are like an out of control chainsaw. When In a Silent Way was being recorded, Miles Davis famously told John McLaughlin to “play like you don’t know how to play guitar.” It sounds like these guys took his advice—to excellent effect. For the most part, every song is very fast and doesn’t shelf the mayhem to take a breath very often. A notable exception is the album’s centerpiece and arguably finest moment, “Corpse Revenge,” which has an absolutely menacing doom intro followed by one of those punky riffs underscored by one of the most sinister d-beats I’ve ever heard. In other d-beat related news, there is also a recurring bastardized d-beat on “Lurking in the Undercroft” that is absolutely lovely. Drumming in general is like a bloody sledgehammer. Drums do not put on airs; they are what they are: a ripping battering ram. There are often times where another drummer might throw in some tricky cymbal fills that it takes a couple listens to catch. None of that here. The drums simply up the concussive force of the riffs. Bass has a tone akin to one playing an electrified rubber band in a sewer, and it provides a wretched low-end for the other instruments. “Jason” (of Witch Vomit infamy) doubles as vocalist as well. His grunts are low and disturbing, those of a maniac or sadistic killer. He sometimes mixes it up and uses a poisonous, gurgling scream, but those moments are few and far between. All of this adds up to both a repulsive display of death metal mastery and an album that is, above all, super fucking fun. Every time I listen to its brief 28 minutes, I find myself enjoying it more and more, to the point that I can barely sit still for enjoyment while listening.
At the end of the day, Torture Rack is not going to appeal to everyone. If you’re afraid of filth, if you want complexity, if you don’t want to be tortured to death, you may not appreciate the human caviar that Torture Rack serves up. But for those of us like me, you may find yourself with a goofy grimace on your face, equal parts pain and pleasure, at the sordid proceedings here.