Crawl to China
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
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
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
Gorilla seven days old
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