Review Summary: An oasis in the deserts of metal.
Metal bands are truly “a dime, a dozen” now days; every year something new is cranked out by some new band hoping to become another solid brick in the repertoire wall that contains the best and the famous. Someone searching for a new band to enjoy might have to wade through a significant amount of garbage to find a worthwhile band. It is this fact that sadly causes some gems to slip away unnoticed, only to be found be those that search hard enough in the right place. Torrent happens to be one of these bands, but hopefully not for much longer.
Bringing their version of melodic death metal to the scene, Torrent sets high standards for themselves with their debut album “The Winged Sun.” The product of a couple people collaborating across the country, the band has somehow remained under the radar for a few years now, quietly creating music and releasing it to the masses. With their release of “The Winged Sun,” however, it is obvious that they deserve far more recognition than they deserve: the album is truly great in almost every way.
Simply put, the production quality of this album is superb. Maintaining a crisp, clear entourage of instruments, “The Winged Sun” gives the listener leeway to listen to every part in the mix and then put it all together again. This combined individuality in the mix is a fine line to traverse: too much and everything would feel disjointed; too little and everything would collapse together into one muddy sound. However, the engineering work done in this album makes it sound delightfully clear without spreading everything too thin. There is one thing that does take away from the immersion, though: the not-so-subtle changes in instrument tone between songs. The most blatant example comes along in “Fallen Cities” in which the bass has a completely different feel and sound. While this does allow it to stick out a bit more in the song, it’s almost too much and fails to support the low end of the song as well as it did in other tracks. It should be noted that this is by far the worst offender; other tone changes are far more subtle. Overall, Torrent manages to give their debut a fantastic mix, and it is obvious that much time and effort went into making sure they got the sound they wanted.
“The Winged Sun” embodies its creator’s name, in a way: from the very beginning, the listener is assaulted by wave after wave of heavy riffs with only small spaces of tranquility in between. It is this multitude of small oasis in a vast desert that allows the album to breathe and bring in a sense of variety. Another attribute worth noting is the grandness of scale that Torrent achieves in each and every song. No matter the tone or feel, each song has an impressive body of sound and creates its own sort of small world within the realm of the entire work.
An argument could be made that the songs do sound much the same, and there is definitely enough evidence to support such a claim. Heavy use of harmonic (“Middle East”-sounding) scales and chord progressions can run together a bit, especially in the massive outro, “Leviathan.” When the more unique portions of the tracks are added in, however, it brings back enough freshness into each track to stave off a high level of repetitiveness. Another complaint could be that the songs drag on far too long for their own good; indeed, each part of the album has an average running time of about six minutes, minus the shorter intro and the gargantuan final track. There are times where this may be true: some of the solos can feel tagged on and a bit on the unnecessary side. Whether or not this is a significant problem will come down to each listener. Some will be enthused by the flashy runs of notes; others will probably find them more annoying than anything else.
Where listeners will probably find themselves most divided, however, is in the subject of the vocals. The best comparison is probably found in the band Periphery; Torrent’s vocalist has a similar array of soaring, nasal tenors but utilizes far less screams. There are times where he fits very well with the instrumentation, and there are places where one might wish that he would disappear. It is a very polarizing performance, to say the least, and unfortunately it may be the make-or-break point for some people.
The fact of the matter, though, is that most of these complaints will come down to a personal bias. The vocals may be enjoyable or completely rub the listener the wrong way. The solos may thrill one person and bore the next. It’s inevitable that these focal points will be the deciding factors for many. Despite these particularly polarizing attributes, “The Winged Sun” is still an excellent album at its core. Catchy grooves, tasteful use of breakdowns, and skilled writing all combine together to make Torrent’s first album one to stand tall in the metal music realm. With any luck, the band and their work will soon receive the recognition they truly deserve.