Album Review: Ceaseless Torment - Victory or Death
Reviewed by Sam Jones
Finland may be a nation regarded for its death and black metal bands, but once in a while a thrash act bursts through the Scandinavian gates and, in this instance, that band is Ceaseless Torment. Formed way back in 2008 and hailing out of Helsinki, Ceaseless Torment’s career began slowly where their first Demos weren’t released until 2010 and 2011 respectively. It wouldn’t be until 2014’s The End They Bring where Ceaseless Torment would finally find their place amongst the annals of Finish Thrash. Since then, the band have been steadily churning out one thrash record after another, following up their 2014 debut with 2017’s Forces Of Evil, both of which were released through BWK Records. Now, in 2022, the band gear up once more to unveil their third full length release this time through WormHoleDeath, their newest record label, bridging the lengthiest gap between studio records to date no less as well. I’m certain avid fans of Ceaseless Torment are very excited to see these Finns release a new record once again after several years. I don’t often see much Finnish thrash come my way, so I was rather curious going into Victory Or Death to say the least.
Ceaseless Torment really know how to get things kicked off right out of the gate. Before you know it, the band are hurling one riff after another your way. But one instrumental aspect that immediately stands out are the drums. It’s something that doesn’t do anything you haven’t heard before, yet you can’t drag your attention away, albeit for an unfortunate reason. As the drums were playing along. I couldn’t help but feel like the drums came off as if they were recorded in a different location or at least somewhere that had very different acoustics to the rest of the band’s performance. You can recognise the breakneck pace the band play at but there’s forever the insistent resonance the Tom-toms possess banging away at you. Often this wouldn’t be a negative thing, yet the drums come off with such acoustic presence that it truly dominates the soundscape the band are looking to establish. It doesn’t hamper the band’s performance nor does the record feel any lesser because of it, I simply felt like the drums could have really used some more tweaking in the mix. They do conflict with what else the band are trying to perform however, as the album continues you slowly become used to it. It’s constant hammering on your attention of the rest of the band’s performance slowly feels to wane and before long you simply accept it as part of the band’s sound, yet the initial onslaught of drums at the start of this record is pretty jarring.
I think Ceaseless Torment managed to pull off a great presence through the pace at which their songwriting comes at us. Like many burgeoning thrash acts on their debut album, Ceaseless Torment aspire to throw swathes of speed and intensity at us which they certainly achieve in the opening minutes of this album; it’s a guaranteed way at garnering our attention. But as the album continues to open up, we get additional moments where their songwriting slows down and crunchier, segmented pieces are thrown our way. What I particularly appreciated during these pieces was how organic and natural it sounded to their songwriting. It didn’t come across as if the band felt like they needed some variety in their songwriting somewhere and so just dropped certain pieces into their record; it feels absolutely deliberate to the structure of various songs and makes a more engaging and interesting listen than had the band just unloaded copious displays of speed one after the other.
If you ask me, the guitar work and tone that Ceaseless Torment exhibit herein is the ideal sounding thrash vibe that modern bands such as these guys should be sporting. It manages to be racing and crunching without being too vast of a crushing weight on our senses. In this instance, the riff work and speed the band play out is mixed together perfectly; one element is absolutely complementing the other. The band are able to play with a sound that not only feels bolstered during their faster and aggressive moments but is just as malleable as the band slow things down from time to time, their sound taking on a more deliberate and planned vibe. It goes to show that having the right guitar tone to go along with the pace at which you play at, is just as necessary as how the songwriting is played out.
The vocals are something that do stand out here, this time for a good reason. They’re excellently mixed into the record whereby the riffs manage to play alongside them and even the drums’ lacklustre mix can’t prevent them from piercing the distance between us and the band. It probably works well for the band that the vocals are of a slightly different vibe to the rest of the record; had the vocals been more conventional and utilised a gruff tone they likely would have had their power lost in the vortex this record jettisons us into. Truthfully there’s a slight blackened edge in his vocal performance that helps the frontman to stand out from his peers. While it may not move anywhere major, the fact that we can acknowledge and appreciate it makes all the difference for Ceaseless Torment. It supplies the band with an extra bout of evil and rasping snarl other thrash acts, owing to their own respective vocal deliveries, can’t match on.
In conclusion, what may appear to be an album that can be a little jarring initially ends up being quite the solid thrash record. While the drums do have their drawbacks early on in the record, I will admit it becomes decreasingly jarring and distracting the more you listen to this album; before long you are completely immersing yourself into the fast paced, ferocious volley of sound Ceaseless Torment are hurling at you. Their general sound may not vary all that much yet through the implementation of their songwriting there’s plenty to keep us satisfied that this may be a band to watch. If their mix were to be touched up and smoothed out for the next record then Ceaseless Torment could certainly become a thrash band to watch out for. Despite my early doubts regarding Victory Or Death, this is a record that’s fast and to the point and delivers everything you’d want to find in such an album.