The first 33 seconds of “Sinister Scherzo” convey for me what you can expect of Tourniquet’s “Gazing at Medusa”: virtuosity. The eerie, tremolo-picked melody, sits atop blackened drum blasts, interrupted by a lone flute that signals the first verse. Now in thrash metal country, Tim Owens’ off-kilter delivery voices the madness of a world that “dances tuned to a dark macabre beat.” While a scherzo in the classical sense is played in an upbeat, playful manner “Sinister Scherzo” leaves me with an uneasy chill.
The music of “Longing for Gondwanaland” calls up an image of a warhorse riding into battle. Gondwanaland – the supercontinent – a metaphor of unity that is in stark contrast to today’s reality. We have eschewed the oneness that Paul so aptly describes in Romans 12:4-5:
“For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.”
If the melancholy slow march of doom metal is your thing, “Memento Mori” will be an early highlight on “Gazing at Medusa”. The riffs are crushing, and the lyrics remind us of our own mortality. Aaron Guerra and Chris Poland both supply lead melodies that wrench at your heart, while Ted Kirkpatrick keeps the procession moving forward.
The legato that introduces “All Good Things Died Here” reminds of a strident violin, which dissipates into a gravelly fuzz. The proceeding groove is so chunky, but plenty room remains in the track for experimentation both with guitars and drums. What I really like about Kirkpatrick’s production is that the drums are the cornerstone – it’s like I’m experiencing firsthand each composition from the drummer’s throne. This doesn’t mean that the drums overpower everything else that’s there; it’s the vantage point from which I observe the action.
My favourite song title of 2018 is “The Crushing Weight of Eternity”. At the outset, the guitar melody sounds like it’s breaking down (as opposed to building up); the chords descending down the neck of the guitar. This contrasts nicely with the rapid kick drum as we are propelled towards doom. The message is very clear: “The crushing weight of eternity… The weight is lifted when we choose to walk the path He offers.” We are granted some respite from the fast pace at the start of “The Peaceful Beauty of Brutal Justice”. How Owens interprets the lyrics is masterful, and the octave fuzz on the lead melody is genius! We are really getting a sense here of the dynamics in the songwriting.
“Can’t Make Me Hate You” shows that Tourniquet are not afraid to experiment sonically. It starts out discordant and unsure as if everything is going to come to a grinding halt. The clash of strings and skins resolve into a steady rhythm, and as I’m listening I’m comparing Chris Owens’ voice to that of other heavy metal singers. He’s got that warble that Biff Byford of Saxon has, and the range. He’s also got that unsettling quality that Dez Fafara (ex-Coal Chamber) has in his voice.
I love how locked in the guitars and drums are on “One Foot in Forever”. It’s like the kick drum is punctuating the rhythm, and each strum is coloured with either cymbals or toms. It’s a triumphant song that reminds us that we are part of God’s inspired Creation, and that while we live in this world we should imbue it with love. Deen Castronovo (ex-Journey) is the guest vocalist on the final (and title) song, “Gazing at Medusa”. A quick scan through articles on the internet revealed that Medusa’s head was also used as a symbol in ancient times to ward off evil. Unlike this figure of legend, we serve a Living God who holds power over all creation, who invites us:
“Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters;
and you who have no money, come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost.”
I have returned several times now to “Gazing at Medusa”, and each time I discover a new detail in the songwriting and orchestration. Time well spent.
“Gazing at Medusa” scores 10/10.
Written by Karakul
1. Sinister Scherzo
2. Longing for Gondwanaland
3. Memento Mori
4. All Good Things Died Here
5. The Crushing Weight of Eternity
6. The Peaceful Beauty of Brutal Justice
7. Can’t Make Me Hate You
8. One Foot in Forever
9. Gazing at Medusa
Ted Kirkpatrick – drums
Aaron Guerra – guitar, vocals
Chris Poland – lead guitar
Tim “Ripper” Owens – vocals
Deen Castronovo – guest lead vocals on title track
Record label: Pathogenic Records
Release Date: 16th October 2018
Stop the Bleeding (full-length, 1990)
Psycho Surgery (full-length, 1991)
Pathogenic Ocular Dissonance (full-length, 1992)
Vanishing Lessons (full-length, 1994)
Carry the Wounded (EP, 1995)
Crawl to China (full-length, 1997)
Microscopic View of a Telescopic Realm (full-length, 2000)
Where Moth and Rust Destroy (full-length, 2003)
Antiseptic Bloodbath (full-length, 2012)
Onward to Freedom (full-length, 2014)
Gazing at Medusa (full-length, 16 October 2018)
Lyric video for ‘Gazing at Medusa’
Lyric video for ‘Sinister Scherzo’