(DGR reviews the new EP by The Resistance.)
Torture Tactics is a weird release. The release itself isn’t weird, but as a whole Torture Tactics is an odd duck amongst EP releases. More on that in a second, as some folks may need some quick catching up.
Torture Tactics is the new EP by Gothenburg, Sweden-based melodeath supergroup The Resistance. If you’ve never crossed paths with The Resistance before, their members have quite the histories in other bands and somehow found their ways into one congealed group, constructed out of some fairly big names to make some pretty straightforward and punishing thrash and death.
For instance, in my case, The Resistance were a way to keep track of the Dimension Zero gentlemen, as both guitarists Jesper Strömblad — yes, he of ex-In Flames fame — and Glenn Ljungström have spent time within their ranks. Also on the roster, in terms of slightly more recognizable names, is Marco Aro, current vocalist for The Haunted — although at the time of The Resistance’s inception he hadn’t stepped back into that role yet.
It’s melodic death metal by genre descriptor, but as most things in life, there exist grey areas, and The Resistance’s brand has veered closer to a speedier, more death-metal-incarnate form of sound. The group’s first full-length, 2013’s Scars, was one that I reviewed for this very site and it was one that I found to be enjoyable — if a little bit red meat, perfect for someone like me but not the most instantly catchy.
Torture Tactics is the followup to that release in some senses. It contains a grab bag of music from The Resistance’s young career so far, six brand new songs up front (likely the initial idea for the EP), and then two songs from Scars and two songs from the group’s very first release — the EP called Rise From Treason. With a fully fleshed out ten-track run time, you can see why I might consider Torture Tactics odd. It’s a giving release, packed full of material, and it feels like a sampler of everything The Resistance was in the past as well as what they’re aiming for in the future — well, future-present… present in general… past because it’s already been recorded on a disc and likely was for months?
Let’s try to check in with where they are now in order to avoid the existentialist arguments, I’ve fallen down that trap once already.
In order to allow myself to somewhat attempt to deftly dance around the pitfalls of debating tenses in regards to music, I’m going to try something a little bit different and split this discussion into two different sections — one regarding the new music and the other one regarding the older takes that the band have included. In essence, Torture Tactics is the group’s two EPs rammed into one release, but the recordings hail from two different places, one being on the group’s debut album and the other being legitimately taken from their debut 2013 EP Rise From Treason.
The New Old
For the newer material on Torture Tactics proper, we have six songs. Often when we talk of an EP like this, we usually treat it as a preview of things to come, as a glimpse into the future, and usually if those first two perspectives fail, we like to see what sort of headspace the artist is in and where they are taking their sound now — what sort of permutations and contortions the group are seeing fit to play with. With Torture Tactics none of that really applies.
If you wanted to be reductive as all hell, you could say that Torture Tactics is more The Resistance, so if you’re in the market for that, then stop here; the band nailed sounding like themselves. There’s no huge leap in sound this time. Instead, the group iterate on what they feel has worked best for them.
You’ll note that, somehow, the music on Torture Tactics is even more concise than its already trimmed and sleek form on Scars. Clearly, the band found some sort of bullshit to cut away because most of the music on the newer bits of Torture Tactics is edging in the direction of about two and a half minutes. The second track, “Dead”, clears the mark at 3:11 and sixth song “Dying Words” comes close at 2:52. But on the opposite end of the spectrum there’s a couple songs that get past about a minute and a half and call it quits there.
In other words, this time around The Resistance have taken a literal no-fluff approach to their sound and come in on a succession of increasingly fast death metal and thrash riffs, and the drums behind them alternate between full-blown artillery fire and full-auto machine gun. Given my own love for the fast tracks when it comes to music, I of course was drawn to a couple of them. “For War” is probably the most basic, boiled-down-to-bone-and-broth The Resistance could be. It’s built entirely around two huge headbang-heavy grooves and Marco Aro punctuating everything with a list of reasons as to why they do things “For War”.
“Deception” is another real fast, angry track that moves at the speed of a lit detonation cord and consists of seemingly every instrument yelling at you about something, vocals included. Every track on Torture Tactics up to the earlier EP music included on it just moves and it moves fast. Granted, most EP releases are designed with the “blink and you’ll miss it” philosophy in mind, but in The Resistance’s case the title phrase has almost become literal, right now resting on the tortured turn of phrase as barely figurative.
The Old Old
Two of the songs included on Torture Tactics hail from The Resistance’s 2013 EP Rise From Treason. Quite literally, too, as there is a rougher recording quality to them. For completionists in general, it’s actually a fantastic value because with the two songs from Rise From Treason and the two songs from Scars you actually have everything the band have ever done if you own Scars. Both songs from the EP are pretty straightforward, a bit on the slower side than the group’s more recent music, but you can hear the early promise in those songs that led to the band continuing.
The two songs from Scars are lifted straight off of that disc, which has this weird effect of making the back half of Torture Tactics feel like a sampler, but these songs are two of the harder-hitting ones — fitting with the blood-spattered-dentist-chair motif’ of the Torture Tactics artwork. If you’re doing a full-discog run-though, it can be a little jarring getting “Expand To Expire” and “I Bend – You Break” twice, and those songs have a little fat compared to the new Torture Tactics songs.
Torture Tactics as a full release is thus a split value, partially because the band have managed to pack quite a bit of material in here but some of that material is pulled from earlier releases. The newer songs on Torture Tactics are punchy as fuck — they move quickly and as predictably as The Resistance are, delivering guaranteed explosions of violence; as the sun rises in the east, someone probably gets the shit kicked out of them via The Resistance.
The earlier material is kind of neither here nor there; if you’re familiar with it, then the six songs up front are the ones you care about. If you’re like me and the exposure to the band came from Scars and that’s it, then Torture Tactics has a bit of historical value tacked on to some already heavy tunes up front. Where the band are now feels like a group whittling away at an already slim figurine, like they’ want to be more sharp, more violent. A quick, blunt force to the head that you never see coming. Its clear that the band are taking some steps to avoid comparisons to its members’ other projects, but they obviously have some hard work ahead of them. Right now, The Resistance’s path seems to be one made of broken bodies and bone, like melodeath made fight music, as strange as that sounds. Really, Torture Tactics isn’t torture at all — it’s more like being hit with a stun bolt to the brain. It hits quick and is over before you know it, and the songs here are worthy to rock out to.
Torture Tactics is out now on earMUSIC, available on CD and via iTunes.