Sound — 9
Another review for another criminally underrated thrash band. New York's Demolition Hammer were one of the latecomers to the thrash scene, releasing two demos (Skull Fracturing Nightmare and Necrology) at the very end of the eighties and this, their debut album Tortured Existence, in 1990. The first thing you'll notice about this record is it's sheer ferocity - pure, unadulterated grinding filthy death thrash. there's no harmonies or falsetto here folks, this is a girtty as metal gets. Opening with the brilliantly titled. 44 Caliber Brain Surgery, it's obvious that these guys mean business. Steve Reynolds' voice spit's venom all over the places, whilst James Reilly and Derek Sykes' pulverizing guitar riffs and infecious grooves batter you senseless until you're spitting out your teeth. Following tracks such as Neanderthal, Gelid Remains and Crippling Velocity keep the ferocity maintained at an exhilerating pace, with James and Derek playing some brain melting solos and drummer Vinny Daze literally knocking the breath out of you with some mindblowing drumwork. Listen to his kick drumming during Hydrophobia at full volume at I guarantee that you'll be gasping for breath! Possibly the most well known song off the album, probably because it was the single, is the infamous Infectious Hospital Waste. The only words that come to mind are 'sheer f--king brutality', as this song kills all opposition stone dead, whilst not straying too far away from the formula the album has maintained so far. Another special mention has to go to the final track Cataclysm, for being another exceptional example of how metal should sound - insane drumming, incredible bass and guitar playing, twisted and insane vocals and absolutely fantastic lead work. To end an album on such a song is a bold statement, and one that they followed up with 1992's Epidemic Of Violence. Now, production wise the album is fantastic, although slightly quiet - and I'm reviwing the 2008 remaster through Century Media, so I can't help but wonder why the remasters sound nearly identical to the originals. No complaints though, it's just means it has to be turned up louder. And that's exactly how you should listen to Tortured Existence - loud!
Lyrics — 10
Lets face it, no one listens to thrash for the lyrics (as I've pointed out in my previous reviews) so to judge this album on it's lyrics would be highly unfair. Saying that, the lyrics aren't that bad at all considering the generic topics they cover. Granted that the song titles alone are fantastic, but with lyrics such as 'Propelled the cure emphatically/Change convictions radically/Practising without a degree/.44 caliber brain surgery' you can't help but give Steve credit. Speaking of Steve, his voice is insane on this album - screeching and shouting so viciously that you can almost hear flecks of venom on the mic. His vocal performance is outstanding, however it's not a style that everyone will appreciate. And I'm not going to detract marks for that, because to dislike Demolition Hammer is to dislike true music. In short, the lyrics are fine, the vocals are brilliant, top marks.
Overall Impression — 10
In my opinion, this was one of the last truely vicious thrash records to ever be released. Typical of thrash back in the day, Demolition Hammer's first album set the bar incredibly high for both themselves and those to follow and Tortured Existence is rivalled only by it's followup, 1992's Epidemic of Violence. The grinding guitars, the lung-shredding drumming, the scathing vocals, the immense songwriting - it's all here. Even the slightly iffy mix on the remaster can't damage any credability this album deserves, it's just too good to ignore. As I mentioned earlier in the review, Tortured Existence was remastered and reissued in 2008 by Centuary Media (as was Epidemic of Violence) with a few live tracks tagged on the end. The live tracks, while of average quality, are a very welcome addition to an already classic album and it's great to have these albums available again after they've been out of print for such a long time. If you like thrash, death metal or even punk, buy Tortured Existence. It's worth every penny you spend on it!