A Tortured Soul - Kiss of the Thorn
Eyes Like Snow
Dark Traditional Heavy Metal
10 songs (46'52")
Release year: 2007
Eyes Like Snow
Reviewed by Alex
Surprise of the month

It is good to know that here in the US there are still bands left who can steer clear of all the popular trends and do not play whatever breed of shitcore which will land them in regular radio rotations. It is not good, however, that these bands have to be sending their demos half the world away and be the first signing on a new Heavy & Doom metal subdivision of the kvlt German black metal label. Apparently A Tortured Soul from Milwaukee, WI, had no other choice. What was American labels loss became Eyes Like Snow gain, as the band plays an interesting 80s styled brand of darkened traditional metal.

The first three tracks from Kiss of the Thorn, the album which includes six songs from the 2-yr old demo and four new cuts, are total rippers which set the tone and introduce all facets of A Tortured Soul. Tomorrow’s Door opens up with a dark gallop which should have the fans of older Iced Earth, before all of the symphonic influences, impressed. Not Tonight slows things down to mid-tempo and brings out a superb meaty rhythm guitar as well as finger picked solo work. The band knows how to not fall into a rut, the songs with driving chugging rhythms alternating with darker acoustic tracks, like Altar of Sangria and Parasite. Tempos vary, melodies flow, drums roll, dark atmospheres ranging from vampire-like to romantic are invoked, heads bang, metalheads go into delight. A few drier simpler cut’n’run tracks are tucked carefully in the middle of the album and do not detract as The Chain and 13 finish off strong also pushing forward darker notes.

A Tortured Soul vocalist Rick Black is a special case and deserves a separate paragraph. The guy is just plain good. I do not recall a singer with such range on an unknown practically demo band. From low and sinister manly growls to soaring screams to high, and impressively sustainable, falsetto, Rick seemingly can do it all. His vocal melodies spring to life Nate Gorenc solos (Tomorrow’s Door). On Not Tonight Rick is practically Halfordian, and that is not a compliment I would give out lightly. His enunciation and the way the words come out, from the back of the throat, with head tilted back slightly to bring forth more power – I can see Mr. Rob himself singing on this track. On Nocturne, on the other hand, Rick is nearly King Diamond, another flattering remark I had to mull over before putting it on paper. Masculine vocals next to falsetto, displayed on Nocturne and Altar of Sangria, and I have to validate the band’s claim to have Mercyful Fate sound. The fans of Zac Stevens era Savatage and less epic Manilla Road may also take note.

Generally, I have my impressions set rather early in the listening cycle when presented with a traditional metal album by a young band. The lot gets set fast, so to speak. Yet A Tortured Soul kept me continuously revising the score, the ultimate being me playing a couple of songs from the album to the crowd of late 30s geezers who got together recently at my house. Turns out I was not the only one impressed. Not bad for a band from Milwaukee no one ever heard from. I hope there will be a budget to tour on, as more people, old and young, need to hear this brand of metal before ‘core and Gothenburg plunge it into oblivion.

Killing Songs :
Tomorrow's Door, Not Tonight, Nocturne, The Chain
Alex quoted 78 / 100
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