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Torpor - Abscission review

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Band: Torpor
Album: Abscission
Release date: September 2023

01. Interior Gestures
02. As Shadow Follows Body
03. Accidie
04. Carbon
05. Island Of Abandonment

Given how international music, including metal, has become, it can be fascinating to see ‘microscenes’ of bands of a similar style emerging from the same city. I’ve covered several Mechelen-based post-metal groups for Metal Storm in the past couple of years; over here in the UK, Bristol has been the source of some nastier post-metal.

This includes the now-defunct Sonance, Row Of Ashes and the subject of today’s review, Torpor. Like the Mechelen groups, there’s significant overlap between the bands; Row Of Ashes features the former guitarist of Sonance, and Torpor released a split with the latter group back in 2016. The groups are also connected by a similar musical approach; while each group can somewhat be placed under the post-metal umbrella, their respective sounds are sludgier, doomier and harsher than many of their contemporaries. This remains true on Abscission, the third full album from Torpor, which is a fierce and imposing experience.

There’s a lot of well-known bands in the genre that I’ve seen used as comparators for Torpor, and most of them feel justified when listening to Abscission. Right out the gates, the towering, glacial walls of sound that open “Interior Gestures” are reminiscent of earlier Amenra releases. This particular comparison isn’t relevant for the entirety of this song, however; when Torpor initially pick up the pace, there’s an almost industrial touch to the marching sludge, while the song’s shift into softer, more melodic territory in its second half sees the integration of tones used in the more tranquil/atmospheric portions of Isis songs, particularly those on In The Absence Of Truth. It’s a really satisfying journey that this song goes on, starting with such intimidating volume, but ever so gradually subsiding into melancholy-tinged calm.

Another obvious point of reference comes on the album’s shortest song, “Carbon”; from the eerie screeching sounds to the tribal drumming, this sinister and at-times frenetic cut would sound right at place alongside any song from the classic Neurosis album, Through Silver In Blood. “Carbon” stands relatively alone in terms of sound when compared to the rest of the tracklist; there’s ominous texturing, bilious vocals and colossal sludge riffs on the other songs, but none of them have either the full-blown violence of “Carbon”’s sudden mid-song outburst, nor quite the same post-apocalyptic soundscapes.

In contrast, the album’s closing track, “Island Of Abandonment”, when it reaches its climax after a mid-song fake-out, also uses tribal drum patterns, but opts for a more spiritual sound; the long, sustained, almost chant-like clean vocals remind me of Mechelen band Pothamus’ sensational performance last month at ArcTanGent. For all the grimness that Torpor are capable of, it would be very reductive to boil down Abscission to just its most crushing moments. Torpor do exhibit the dynamic range associated with post metal; on top of the Isis-esque second half of “Interior Gestures” and the ritualistic conclusion to “Island Of Abandonment”, there is a period of true calm midway into “As Shadow Follows Body”, one far removed from the surrounding volume in the same way that Amenra often strip fully back in their own compositions.

Still, Abscission is defined by its heaviness, and for a three-piece, Torpor make a hell of an impact. The drums in particular have been produced in a very emphatic manner, and the steady doom beats slowly pushing these songs along give an extra depth to the trudging sludge riffing. Standout moments include the monolithic tremolo’d climax of “As Shadow Follows Body”, the bulldozing closing stages of “Accidie”, and the bludgeoning percussive pounding midway into “Island Of Abandonment”. However, Abscission works best as a single complete entity, dragging listeners down into the mire with these bleak, intense songs coming one after another. If you like your post-metal with a large dollop of sludge, I recommend setting your gaze towards Bristol, and Torpor in particular.

Rating breakdown
Performance: 8
Songwriting: 8
Originality: 7
Production: 8

Written on 20.09.2023 by Hey chief let's talk why not

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