The world of today is in turmoil. Across the Western world, after decades of growth for love, tolerance and liberty, a movement of blanket hatred for the ‘other’ has begun to creep up through the pores. That movement, which has been festering in the darkness and has finally started to expose itself in full in recent years, has infected political discourse all over North America and Europe. Most metal bands simply keep trucking on, and that’s a good thing. We all need an escape from the raging shitstorm every now and then. Finnish thrash band Tornado could not abide by this, however, and they’re taking their music to the streets, likely along with a few picketing signs. But instead of cribbing from hardcore as you’d expect, they infuse their thrash with a sheen of… glam?!
For those about to take to the comment section to scream their discontent up to the heavens, don’t be hasty. Though the band themselves describe their music as sleazy thrash, this mostly pertains to the vocals. Instrumentally, this is pretty solid thrash metal. The album packs a range of meaty riffs, leaning towards the Anthrax side of the big four. The speed varies from lively to an enjoyably headbangable mid-pace. Though the bass has a tendency to find itself toward the back of the room, it does its job supporting the drums, which are energetic enough but keep to a workman’s quality, foregoing frills and technical wizardry in place of a simple yet proficient performance.
The vocals are a different story, however. In place of the usual throaty belting or hysteric screaming is a nasal voice with an attitude much larger than its power. Vocalist Joey Severance is sure to be the most divisive factor with his histrionic style that matches the instruments for speed, but not for aesthetics. Though energetic, his drawl seems more suited to the glam metal purported to be an inspiration. The attempts at conjuring anger and aggression fall flat, and are put in particularly shrill contrast with the guest vocals from Nile’s Karl Sanders and Immolation’s Ross Dolan. It does, however, set Tornado apart from the thousands of other thrash bands, his dramatic inflection plays well with the satire of racist groups, and his technical execution is consistently solid. As such, you may enjoy the departure from more traditional thrash vocals, even if it means the songs are less directly impactful.
While the vocals are largely a matter of taste, though, it’s the various oddities across the album that are overall less convincing. “The Flight of Yuri Gagarin” is largely a frantic straightforward affair, but its use of old Russian recordings, vocoder effects and halting chorus make it an alienating experience. “Endless Forms of Torment” brings the weird with a ‘Three Little Pigs’ motif, and Joey has more trouble than anywhere else summoning sufficient rage on the cover of S.O.D.‘s “United Forces.” But it’s closer “At the Chapel of Rest” that completes the alienation. The majority of the track is occupied by a spoken word story told by a ghost who killed himself over the world’s bigotry, while both the accompanying riff and the choruses sport a mood utterly incongruent with the subject matter. The closing third consists of a largely acoustic and completely serious plight to ‘treat others as you want to be treated,’ which is in line with the lyrical matter but a total whiplash in tone.
Tornado have a central political tenet but fail to bring it in a consistent manner. The vocals don’t fit the instrumentation, the album whips from playful to serious and from mundane to odd, and the bouts of experimentation seem poorly conceived as well as executed. With such an actual and versatile subject as the wave of right-leaning politics, the focus of the band should have been razor-sharp, but instead it is all over the place in style and tone. Coupled with the muffled, boxed-in production, this is a difficult album to love, saved from the absolute dregs solely on the strength of the riffs and solos, and the biting satire in the lyrics. A terrible album this is not, but neither does the band seem committed to excellence.