Album of the Week 50-2013: Tourniquet – Pathogenic Ocular Dissonance

When you listen to ‘Pathogenic Ocular Dissonance’ for the first time, you’ll notice that the riffs are everywhere. As a result, the album leaves an incredibly disjointed impression upon first listen. Some of the crazy changes within the songs seem rather incoherent, but repeated listening reveals the brilliance in the songwriting department. Don’t let the fact that some of the songs may sound like collections of riffs rather than songs initially throw you off. After all, ‘Melissa’ is a timeless classic as well. I’m not sure if Tourniquet, being a christian band, would appreciate the Mercyful Fate reference, but you get the idea.

Drummer and main songwriter Ted Kirkpatrick has always been a technically very proficient drummer and songwriter, but ‘Pathogenic Ocular Dissonance’ is the first release where the band fully focuses on the more technical approach. The result sounds like a mixture of the faster work on Metallica’s ‘…And Justice For All’ and what Death did on ‘Human’, with a few quirky left turns. It accounts for an intense and ultimately interesting listening experience. An album that the band, despite several solid efforts, wouldn’t come close to topping in their subsequent carreer.

Although it’s unfair to judge these songs by their riffs, it’s generally the songs with the best riffs that end up being my favorites. ‘Incommensurate’, for instance, has a bad-ass, driving main riff that makes me want to revisit the song as often as possible. ‘Pathogenic Ocular Dissonance’ has a vast amount of awesome riffs and so much happening, that my surprise was quite big that it was only four and a half minutes long. The bizarre ‘Gelatinous Tubercles Of Purulent Ossification’ (this may sound like old school Death Metal, but trust me, it isn’t) has an amazing galloping main riff and an interesting middle section and the twin riffs of ‘Theodicy On Trial’ swirl around madly.

The album does get a little more experimental at times. ‘Phantom Limb’ is based on a playful, almost jazzy groove and even though it’s a good song, I think it’s placed too early on the album. The dark and twisted ‘Exoskeletons’ is something of a departure as well, but quite a welcome one. The a capella verses are downright frightening and the doomy atmosphere suits the song incredibly well. That same doomy atmosphere is present on this album’s ultimate experiment: closing epic ‘The Skeezix Dilemma’. Starting out with a beautiful acoustic guitar intro, moving into a disturbingly dissonant carnival melody, the song’s momentum is shortly killed by a spoken part (by a child) only to continue into the ultimate Doom song that perfectly fits the lyrics about child abuse.

Performance-wise, everyone’s at the top of their game here. Kirkpatrick has done an admirable job on drums from Tourniquet’s first release on, the guitars by Guy Lenaire and Erik Mendez sound aggressive, intense and powerful and while the interplay of Guy Ritter’s haunting vocals and Lenaire’s Araya-inspired shouts allegedly started as a necessary evil, it works incredibly well here.

Every good band has that one moment, that one recording, where everything just sounds exactly the way it’s supposed to sound. Although Tourniquet already showed they were on the right way with their debut ‘Stop The Bleeding’, ‘Pathogenic Ocular Dissonance’ is that album for them. It’s unbelievable how well the technical Thrash approach works on this record. If you are, like myself, an atheist, unsure of whether to listen to this album, let me be the one to tell you that you should. You’ll be surprised how dark and evil it sounds.

Recommended tracks: ‘Pathogenic Ocular Dissonance’, ‘Incommensurate’, ‘Exoskeletons’, ‘Gelatinus Tubercles Of Purulent Ossification’

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