overground scene

With deadly force they take control and bring to us old school death

People who know me know that I generally have the tendency to exaggerate about things. Whenever I talk about music, for example, I use the phrase “this is the best record ever!” every 30 seconds. However, I make a conscious effort to avoid being hyperbolic when I write in this blog or elsewhere. What I mean to say is that in this post I am not exaggerating when I say that in the year 2013 Tormented is, in my opinion, the best Death Metal band from Sweden.

I have only known Tormented for a few months. One day I was wondering what happened to Andreas Axelsson, of the mighty Edge of Sanity. Edge of Sanity is a band that I have loved since the mid-90s when I started listening to death metal. The first album I ever listened from them was the newly released Crimson. I was instantly hooked. While throughout the years Swano’s various endeavours were noticed by the media (including his dreadful resurrection of Edge of Sanity in 2003) the rest of the band – namely Andreas Axelsson, Sami Nerberg, Anders Lindberg, Benny Larsson and Robban Karlsson – was nowhere to be seen. It should be noted that Swano was not the mastermind behind Edge of Sanity. Axelsson and the rest of the band contributed equally to make Edge of Sanity one of death metal’s finest. Using the invaluable online source Encyclopaedia Metallum, I found out that Axelsson formed the death metal band Tormented in 2008. Axelsson plays guitar and sings in Tormented and he is enveloped by Robban Karlsson (who sang in the excellent Cryptic after Swano’s departure) on bass, Jocke Ollund on drums and Claes Holmberg on guitar.

Tormented_image002             Robban is clearly disgusted with the photo-shoot session

It is hard to describe how much I like this band. As a person who has been longing for good old Swedish death metal for more than a decade I cannot describe what pleasure it has been to find out about this band. It is well known that since the late 90s several bands have tried to recapture the feeling of old school Swedish death metal. I remember Repugnant with their Hecatomb E.P. as one of the first bands that tried to resurrect Death metal’s rotten corpse. Bands that followed include the now popular Bloodbath and the now defunct Kaamos and Chaosbreed. None of these bands really cut it for me. The Hecatomb E.P. was pretty amazing brutal and dirty death metal and Bloodbath’s first CD was also pretty cool albeit too polished and the voice sounded too fake. Most of the bands that followed, however, I found ridiculous until the glorious arrival of Death Breath in 2006. However, even with Death Breath and although Andersson’s compositions are some of the best I have ever listened (check this out and this), some of Pehrsson’s songs felt to me kind of forced. Some other bands like Interment, Evocation and Entrails, whose origins are in the first wave of Swedish death metal but never released a record back then and have recently reformed, again do not impress me. Truth be told, these three bands are loyal to the old school and their music is honest and really good. However, to my ears they are nothing more than first-class Dismember and Entombed clones. As far as the veterans go, and as much as I like the albums that Dismember and Entombed released during the last decade, I cannot help but feel that there is something missing. In other words, I thought that I would never again get the feeling I used to get from listening to Swedish death metal when I was young.* Enter Tormented…

rottenTormented’s first album, Rotten Death (2009), is a fucken masterpiece of old school death metal. It is as if not even one day has passed since Leprosy came out. To my ears, Tormented’s debut is a tribute to Death‘s first two albums, Scream Bloody Gore (1987) and Leprosy (1988), but with a punk attitude. It is a galore of fast tempos, catchy choruses, creeping rotten slow passages and minimal haunting melodies over an angry voice that growls about gore and death. And the best thing is that it does not feel forced! It feels natural! One of the most amazing moments is on the song “Death owns the night“. Near the middle of the song (at 1:35) the raging tempo gives way to a more restrained passage where Andreas sings “his work is perfection and his art is to kill, deadly dissection, it is your blood he’ll spill”. This passage is boiling with tension which eventually erupts into an amazing riff and the chorus. The genius of this song is that the specific verse appears later on in the song but this second time the drummer keeps the fast Slayer beat. I doubt that any old death metal fan can listen to this part without going berserk! In the same song the band pays tribute to Death’s song “Leprosy” with the lyric “with deadly force they’ll take control and bring you to your death”. Another awesome part is on the super fast song “Come back from the dead“. The part I refer to is the way Andreas sings the lyric “a sea of flames is where he drowned” and the ensuing auditory massacre. The album closes with the masterpiece called “Reversed funeral” which also pays tribute to the old school of Swedish death metal by name-dropping Entombed, Dismember, Unleashed, Grave, Merciless and Unanimated. This album is, in three words, relentless, powerful and enjoyable.

Tormented-Death-AwaitsTheir second album, Death Awaits (2013) is equally amazing. The main difference between Rotten Death and Death Awaits is that the latter is much slower. If I had to compare it to an old school Swedish death metal album, that would be Grave‘s You’ll Never See (1992). On this album Tormented keep the Leprosy-era recipe of death metal combined with the heaviness and brutality of early Swedish death metal. Again the freshness of these songs is unbelievable. Every single song has awesome vocal patterns – which, by the way, are less repetitive than on their first album – and really cool structures. The way each song develops brings joy to my ears. I don’t know if that suggests that I’m just happy because a band simply managed to meet my expectations by successfully following a well trodden musical path, or whether they really enjoy what they do which is then reflected in the music. What I can say is that these songs make me feel good! The album kicks off with a song that changes moods, starting with a majestic heavy intro, moving on to a thrashy vibe which reminds of post-Morning Star Entombed and Death Breath and eventually settling to a slow and heavy apocalyptic section dragging until the end. The two very fast songs on the album, namely “Blood orgy” and “Black sky” are classic relentless death metal songs with excellent vocal patterns, buzzing fast-picking and cool choruses. The more mid-tempo/D-beat tempo songs are my favorite on the album. “Incantations of the dead” has a main riff that reeks of early Entombed, nice rhyming lyrics, and an awesome bridge that builds to the redemptory melody of the chorus. Right after the second chorus the song goes into a brilliant slow crawling section typical for Swedish death metal. “Insane with dread” is another awesome song with a driving tempo, a tense bridge, a catchy chorus and a slow section with a powerful chord progression. “Into the crypts of death” is another brilliant mid-tempo song with an amazing opening riff, a rotten main riff, a bridge which breathes Swedish death into the song, leading once again to an awesome chorus and a brutal slow section. The album closes – like their previous album – with a majestic song called “In the presence…“. The opening riff and chorus give a blackened quality to the song and the main riff is classic Autopsy (hear for example, “Ridden with disease“). This album is, in three words, majestic, powerful and enjoyable.

It is true that Tormented do not attempt to break any new ground with their music. It is also true that their style of Swedish death metal is not even as evolved as Dismember’s first two albums (1991, 1993), Entombed’s Clandestine (1991) or At The Gates’ With fear… (1993). However, an album such as Clandestine is a mystery still to this day. It is impossible to grasp its perfection. So, it would not be fair to judge other bands on the basis of trying to surpass something so indisputably perfect. Axelsson himself has been involved in albums  of sheer perfection in the past – Unorthodox, Spectral…, Purgatory…, Crimson, Cryptic – that took the genre much farther from where Tormented are today. However, what Tormented do should not be underplayed. They credibly compose and perform utterly awesome death metal with passion, conviction and no gimmicks. In this sense, they are the contemporary leaders of true Swedish death metal.

*Desultory‘s comeback album Counting our scars is an exception, as I consider it a masterpiece of Swedish death metal (check this out). They haven’t been active lately. Hopefully they will not fold again.


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[…] it without question my favorite album from 2013. For a more detailed account of Death Awaits read this. My three favorite songs off the album these days would be, “Into the crypts of death”, […]

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