Storm Alert

Torture’s indie debut Storm Alert was never released in the U.S. That’s a shame, too. If this album had hit me in the late 1980s or early 1990s, it would have blown me away. In 2006, the re-issue from Escapi sounds pretty dated, but for an old thrasher like me, it’s still a quite enjoyable listen.

Beginning as a high school band in El Paso, Texas, Torture was noticed by a Mexican record label owner who signed them for a four song demo in 1987. They recorded the four songs in two days and proceeded to get good reviews in Europe. They released Storm Alert in London in 1989 to good reviews. At the time, thrash was falling in the States and grind and death was rising. They couldn’t find a deal, so after touring with Sepultura and Obituary, they scrapped the band, went to college and got real jobs.

In 2004, vocalist/guitarist Tom Hicks and bassist Deric Gunter decided to give it another go, so they went into the studio to remix and remaster Storm Alert, eventually finding a home for it on Escapi.

The album plays very much like a cross between early Annihilator and early Slayer. That is, fast, technical thrash with just a slight nod of the head to both old-school death and traditional metal. The record opens with the operatic instrumental “Intro,” which is nice and dark, but really doesn’t add much to the album and certainly doesn’t fit the tone of the following song “Ignominious Slaughter,” which sounds like Reign in Blood-era Slayer.

Things settle in a little more on the 11-minute “Dwell Into Surreality.” Drawing on classic thrash, Torture creates one of those epic songs with plenty of tempo changes, really several songs in one. The intro reminds me a great deal of Testament, and the verse is pulled straight from the Annihilator playbook. They offer a bit of a surprise in the course of the song with a slight black metal touch.

Like most of the thrash bands from the 1980s, Torture has a penchant for mixing acoustic intro pieces with fast, loud and abrasive riffs, as on “Blood Portraits.” There’s also the tendency to get a little silly, as on “Slay Ride,” which starts with kids singing a Christmas song and then morphs into a song about a killer Santa Claus.

I keep coming back to the comparison to Annihilator’s Alice in Hell over and over because there’s a bit of that sound in almost every song here. It’s definitely not a knock on the album though, since I consider Alice in Hell one of the most underrated thrash albums ever. Storm Alert is perhaps not as complex as that album, but it does have a lot of the same elements. Hicks’ guitar riffs have that same biting sound as Jeff Waters (though, in my opinion, Waters is certainly the more talented player), and his voice resembles Randy Rampage’s more than a little. You can even make a lyrical comparison between the two on songs like “Terror Kingdom.” When they’re not following the Annihilator template, you can hear influence from bands like Judas Priest, Death and Celtic Frost, among others
– all pretty good bands to be compared to.

Perhaps the re-issue of Storm Alert is 15 years behind its time, but it’s still a gem for thrash fans who might not have heard it before.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Fred Phillips
January 31st, 2006


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