Crawl to China  
Artist: Tourniquet 
Label: Benson Records 

The best bands are those that consistently put out albums year after year, continually forging ahead into new territory while maintaining their own distinct personality.  Most of the time, though, fans find only frustration when they try to follow a band: subsequent releases never capture the magic of the debut, or the band calls it quits after an album or two, or they change their sound so much you'd never know it was the same band (cough*Metallica*cough).  Well, Tourniquet is a fan's dream band so far: this is their eighth release in seven years of existence (fifth full album), and I'm still drooling over it as much as I did their first one. Sure, it's hardly the same lineup--Ted Kirkpatrick is the only original member--but the creative vision and commitment to excellent uniqueness carries on despite the changes.  

I'd heard a lot about the variety of guitar tones on Crawl to China, but there wasn't as much as I expected.  The rhythm guitars all keep to the same general range (it IS a range, however), while it's mostly the leads, intros, and breaks that spice it up with different sounds--acoustic, jazz, blues, freaky, out-of-tune, whatever.  The riffs and rhythms, on the other hand, draw most of their variety by being from different genres.  You'll find straight-ahead 70s riffs, groovy modern distortion, stop-and-go  
hardcore riffage (tweaked Tourniquet-style), technical thrash, classical playing ("America"), and so on.  Some thrash purists might wish for a little more heft in the guitars, but the headbanger in me found plenty of metal to chomp on.

While their last album stuck to a  more conventional metal sound, this one brings them back into the progressive arena with a ton of time and tempo changes and assorted sounds accenting each well-written song (beating heart, whistling, Indian recorder, strange background vocals, etc.). Ted's drumming is beyond brilliant as usual (he could record an album all by himself as far as many fans are concerned), and Luke Easter's vocals continue to improve in style and range.  Whether he's singing in nice guy mode or harsh shouter mode, it always fits the music and the mood of  the lyrics, and you can always understand him.  

Although most of the songs were written by Ted, two of my favorites were penned by Luke (words) and Aaron (music)--"The Tell-Tale Heart," and "Crank the Knife."  The first one, of course, is inspired by Edgar Allan Poe's story by the same name, and deals with guilt that tears us up inside.  No matter how many times I listen to it, the anguished, distorted delivery of "I admit the deed," contrasted with the almost-whispered "Can't you hear the beating?" gives me chills.  "Crank the Knife" is a solid hardcore-influenced metal song about betrayal and self-destruction, with a sweet Metallica-esque chorus:  

   I greet you with a brother's kiss  
   And crank the knife another twist  
   Pointing to things that don't exist  
   I crank the knife another . . . twist 

The lyrics on the album are consistent with past Tourniquet, always intelligent, sometimes straightforward, sometimes based on metaphor and imagery.  Ted returns to his concern for animal rights (last visited with  
"Ark of Suffering" on the first album) in "Going, Going...Gone":  

   Gorilla seven days old  
   Ripped from his dead mother's arms  
   Her hand now an ashtray  
   Souvenir for a tourist's charms  
   Will I join the ranks of the photo gallery?  
   It may be the only way left to ever see me  

The production is, quite honestly, as good as it gets.  Everything is crisp, clean, and perfectly separated.  When a riff needs to be meaty, it's 100% beef; when a vocal needs to hit you in the gut, you exhale in surprise.  And since Tourniquet is also the tightest band that I've ever heard, the production allows all that talent to shine even more. Musicians across the board should be impressed with this work of art.  

This may actually be my favorite Tourniquet album to date.  If you can't tell already, I'm just blown away by the quality and freshness to be found here.  Nobody sounds like Tourniquet.  They do their Lord proud. If all the other believers in bands set the same standards of excellence for themselves, there'd be many more stoked fans out there. 

By Josh Spencer 

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Tourniquet has produced a mixed bag on their newest release Crawl to China. Most of the tunes are excellent, but a few really left me shaking my head - the title track (which is almost rapcore), "Enveloped in Python," and "Bats."  Since this clocks in at 68:02 (skipping over those tracks brings it down to 56:30), it more than makes up for these losers.  Musically, this is the same hard-hitting Tourniquet we've come to know and love, although I noticed a little more blues influence in this release than their last.  The vocals are rawer and have more growl, but it really strengthens the overall sound.  The lyrical images are incredibly clear, and give the listener plenty to ponder.  This one could quickly become one of my favorites.-----Mark Aylor 
 
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