I hate to admit it, but I went into this album blind. I say this at the risk of damaging my credibility from the beginning of my first review, but even though drone, sludge, doom, and post-metal are my regular go-to sub-sub-subgenres of the metal genre tree, I hadn’t heard of Bristol & Wales-based trio TORPOR prior to this.
When listening to a band for the first time, it’s all too easy to hold their work up for scrutiny against more familiar artists creating in the same space. For post-metal, it’s hard to top ISIS, particularly with 2005’s Panopticon. For sludge, you could look to albums like Houdini or songs like “Boris” by The Melvins, or genre stalwarts like Eyehategod, Crowbar, and Acid Bath. Doom metal has an abundance of different sub-subgenres, but two examples that spring to mind are Bell Witch with Mirror Reaper and Monarch! with Omens. And drone…well, basically almost anything by SUNN O))) is a lesson in maximum volume yielding maximum results, with some examples of their finest work being represented in records like Life Metal, Monoliths & Dimensions, and (my absolute favourite album of all time) Black One.
The bar is high, and I’m happy to say that Abscission comes together as a piece of art that highlights the technical skills and craftsmanship of its creators without retreading the ground travelled by their contemporaries too heavily, or wearing their influences too obviously on their sleeves. Rather, it makes something wholly their own with it, worthy of sharing shelf-space with their aforementioned peers. Needless to say, the album gripped me from the very first note, and has been on heavy rotation – irrespective of reviewing purposes – for the last week.
“Interior Gestures” opens the record with an immediacy that pins you to the wall and bludgeons you (in a good way, mind) with its immense riffs, pounding drums, and painful, howled vocals. The song wastes no time in establishing a tone for the album, but just when you’ve acclimated to the colossal sound on display, the back half of the track gradually softens, ending in hypnotic spoken word; a calming counterpoint to the beast that greeted us in the intro.
The doom-laden “As Shadow Follows Body” begins with droning guitar, dying down at the mid-point before a build-up to some sinister trem-picking and pained vocals, evoking a feeling of one screaming in vain into the face of a hurricane. This builds to a climax where the percussion drops out to focus on the chaos of frenetic riffing, and it is glorious.
Two of the record’s shorter tracks, “Accideye” and “Carbon”, follow – the former beginning with a Lynch-ian industrial grind that continues to uphold the oppressive, wall-of-sound feel that embodies the record’s overall tone. The latter almost feels dirty (in a good way, mind), with its distorted screams, discordant guitars, and furious, almost blast-beat drumming, before ending on a more primal note.
The album closer, “Island of Abandonment” begins with foreboding guitars, slowly building momentum, and more importantly, anticipation. The energy of the song continues to grow, enveloping the listener as everything established on the record thus far comes together in an epic crescendo. Then, just when you think the song is done, the final third provides an almost epilogue; clean, soaring vocals complement the screams, and reiterate the duality of beauty in harsh noise that the band have presented for the last forty-odd minutes. As a final track of a record, TORPOR ensure that it makes the journey as a whole a rewarding one, worth every second for those willing to follow them.
The only real criticism to offer for a record as well-made as Abscission is that there isn’t more of it. Albums like this are an absolute joy to discover, albums that have you obsessing over every riff, every musical movement, every individual note for weeks on end. Albums that have you diving backwards through the artists’ discography to see how they’ve grown and evolved, to see what led to this moment. Albums that have you ordering merch from the other side of the globe, and scanning their socials in the hopes of a tour to your corner of the world. With Abscission, TORPOR have now become that band for me.
For those who crave a little more variety and brevity than the average drone song, or would like to see more beauty in doom to counterbalance the mire, or who enjoy a little more exploration in their post-metal without straying too far into the Avant Garde, it would be well worth your time to give Abscission a spin.
Band photo by Lauren Mason (2022)