Torture Squad - Far Beyond Existence - (8/10)
Published on May 20, 2018
Torture Squad is a band that seems at first to be easy to figure out. Playing a semi-extreme brand of death thrash and including a female singer in their ranks, one would assume that there were at least some elements of the Swedish melodeath scene running through their blood, not to mention at least a passing similarity to Arch Enemy and the modern sheen of their recent efforts. Torture Squad should also surely be a moniker chosen for its attention-seeking qualities. Well so far, so wrong. Because this Brazilian crew have been in the game for 28 years since taking their name from a Sacred Reich song (perhaps “Death Squad” just didn’t sound brutal enough) and, although this doesn’t rise to the almighty pissed heights of Pandemonium or Hellbound from 10 years ago, have not made the most traditional album with Far Beyond Existence. The quality may not be absolutely peaking throughout all 10 tracks, but it’s one of the more interesting death thrash releases of recent years.
Those familiar with much of European death thrash might want to open their mind for Torture Squad to enter, since comparisons to Sodom, Suffocation, and even Coroner can all be made with as much support as those with Legion of the Damned or the other ubiquitous Brazilians Sepultura. After the vocals on the preceding Esquadrão de Tortura were shared between then-guitarist André Evaristo and Fernanda Lira, Mayara ‘Undead’ Puertas makes her full-length debut as replacement for long-standing frontman Vitor Rodrigues and doesn’t leave too many reasons for complaint. Like Rodrigues before her, she has a low, dry bark that is capable of opening up chasmic depths and also screaming at rather higher pitches, which is used to great effect as the songs alter their pace and texture around her. The unchanged rhythm section of Amílcar Christófaro and Castor are not keen to settle to one particular beat or tempo for very long, giving Rene Simionato a vigorous guitar workout that takes in chugging death, blasting thrash, melodic black chords, a few clean moments, and some unusual fills that certainly give the songs here a technical bent.
As one might expect from such a description, the complex nature of the music results in longish songs, all of which exceed five minutes but for the blunt death metal of “Hate”, on which former Benediction frontman Dave Ingram turns up to lend a hand. This leaves the album weighing in at just under an hour in length (just over an hour on some versions), which is almost certainly a bit much for such a vigorous attack, though Torture Squad avoid repeating themselves so it seems more like generosity than poor editing. On the other hand, it makes it difficult to give an accurate overview of the whole album, which inclines towards death metal more than any other style, though rarely does so in a manner that follows the rulebook.
“Blood Sacrifice” is a good example of why Far Beyond Existence has a lot to offer. It is the longest song at seven and a half minutes (barring the nine minute instrumental “Torture in Progress”, which does not appear on all versions) and features an introductory ploy that has certainly been used in the past, namely echoing female vocals poured like warm scented water over clean, Eastern-sounding guitar chords and swishes of sitar. The exotic soundscape may well be conjured by the band themselves, since no guest musicians are credited despite appearing elsewhere, though the six minutes of the song that follow this build-up cannot be said to soothe or titillate in the same manner at all. Pacey thrash riffing with furious double-kick drumming smashes through the verses, Puertas roaring and screaming like she’s just been told that Christmas is cancelled, but then the real fun starts. A breakdown kicks on after the second chorus, chugging on muted strings, and we expect to be punched in the face with Slayer only to find a more deathly fist swinging at us as drummer Christófaro pummels the kit in mischievous joy; the transition to the half-paced riffing at the end of the song is also an excellent move, the groove providing natural neck exercise and more chances for the vocals to dominate.
Discussing every song in this way would prove that the four years between full-lengths were not wasted, though suffice it to say that nothing fails to meet the standard even if eight songs might have been better than ten. None of the songs expand quite as much “Blood Sacrifice” but the title track and “No Fate” have plenty of room for twists and turns, while “Hate”, “You Must Proclaim”, and “Hero for the Ages” can be appreciated more on a gut level without discounting experimentation. Almost every one of these songs contains a diverting and memorable solo from Simionato, which are sadly not used as much as they could be given the song lengths. The technical skills shown just about keep the whole experience on track from beginning to end, though Far Beyond Existence could be critiqued on the grounds that the band did not diversify as far with acoustic interludes or hookier songs as they have done in the past. This lack of easily memorable content makes the album a grower, a feature that is exacerbated by the rather dry production.
For any fan of extreme metal, there must surely be some pleasure found in listening to Torture Squad’s latest effort, although satisfaction may vary along with tolerance for deliberate complexity and lack of melody, while attention span may also come into the question. If a more cerebral version of Sacrificial Slaughter (one that does more than just shout, “Brains!”) sounds like a good thing, Far Beyond Existence should more or less hit the spot.