Time: 10 tracks / 46:24 minutes
When I first heard of this project, I was simultaneously excited
and worried. In response to concert-goers's suggestions, Tourniquet--masters
of creative modern metal--were doing an album of acoustic covers of their
past songs (mostly recent), plus one new electric tune. My hopes were for
perfection in the acoustic tones and in the bass, something an acoustic
album needs to get right to be enjoyable, but I was afraid they
wouldn't be able to pull it off.
Turns out my fears were groundless in that area; Tourniquet retains
their reputation for flawless production. The acoustic tones are excellent.
With headphones on, some of the fullest and crispest I've ever heard--Kirkpatrick
in the left channel and Guerra in the right, so the listener can fully
appreciate the intricate dance of the two players. Strangely, though, there's
no discernable bass guitar in the mix, despite Vince Dennis being listed
and pictured as the bassist. There are enough natural low tones in the
rhythm playing to make up for it, however.
The flaws in the album lay in other, unexpected areas. First, the
lack of strong percussion. Perhaps due to the band's desire to reproduce
their live acoustic setting, Kirkpatrick spends most of his energy on guitar
with Guerra. Drumming is Ted's forte, and would have pushed the music to
an amazing next level if he could have made it a vital element to the album.
As it is, we get some quiet percussion and tambourines on a few tracks
like "Viento Borrascoso" and "Phantom Limb" (unfortunately the only two
tracks from the early days), but usually back in the mix so that you barely
notice it. Most of the tracks are bare of any, which gives them a unique
flavor but ultimately weakens their potential.
Easter thankfully softens up his vocals half the time, but in such
spare surroundings you can't help but notice how limited he is. He's a
solid mid-range metal vocalist, but he just doesn't have the melodic range
and personality of somebody like James Hetfield (Metallica). At other times
he sings way too loud ("Twilight"), with an awkward shout that overpowers
the guitars. Tourniquet's vocals have always been a bit mismatched with
the music, though, so fans may not even notice.
This review may come across as one big complaint, but it's only
because I'm such a fan, with huge expectations. This is actually one of
the coolest, most original-sounding albums ever, and Tourniquet fans as
well as lovers of intricate, amazing acoustic guitar rhythms and leads
must pick up Acoustic Archives. Unplugged versions of heavy music
are popular and overdone these days, but Tourniquet's one-of-a-kind metal
makes for an ear-opening experience in the format. It makes me wish some
other band would come along that could play odd, complex rhythm-and-lead
acoustic music like this on a regular basis.
By the end, however, you're definitely ready for some distortion.
And the new electric song fits the bill perfectly--Tourniquet's heaviest
song yet. The vacuum of drumming on the rest of the album is made up for
in the intro to "Trivializing the Momentous, Complicating the Obvious"
as Kirkpatrick punishes the skins with whirlwind pounding. The building
stomp of a serious riff marches along with the drumming for about two minutes
before the double-bass and wicked lead kicks in. Then an almost death metallish
riff takes command for the middle of the song, until some spoken word debating
plays out the needless arguments people get into over faith and practice.
It concludes well, with the line, "He came to set the prisoner free/a message
of simplicity". The song definitely brings to mind the old days of Psycho
Surgery and Pathogenic Ocular Dissonance, with tons of variety
in the vocals, cool drumming, heavily aggressive music, and intelligently
verbose lyrics. If their next regular album produces more songs as good
as this one, fans will undoubtedly fall to their knees in thanks.
Songs covered/track listing:
1) Viento Borrascoso
2) Vanishing Lessons
4) Bearing Gruesome Cargo
5) Phantom Limb
7) Heads I Win, Tails You Lose
9) If Pigs Could Fly
10) Trivializing the Momentous, Complicating the Obvious
By Josh Spencer (2/4/99)