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May 2000 Pick of the Month
Microscopic View of a Telescopic Realm
Tourniquet
Label: Metal Blade Records
Length: 11 tracks/69:55 minutes

Samples
Besprinkled In Scarlet Horror
With Microscopic View of a Telescopic Realm, Tourniquet is back on several levels. They’re back to speed metal, back to electric guitars, back to horrific CD covers, back to everything that fans have loved about the band for ten years. They’ve also come back on a secular label, Metal Blade, which has been releasing Christian favorites King’s X and Galactic Cowboys for many years.

Ted Kirkpatrick is one of the world’s best drummers, and on this record he has come alive and let loose, to awesome pounding results. Microscopic View of a Telescopic Realm features some of the most manic guitar and drum work ever put down on a Tourniquet CD. Guitarist Aaron Guerra can play any style, and this being a Tourniquet record, he does. Guerra goes from shredding electric steel strings to caressing nylon strings in a classical style, sometimes all in the same song. A case in point being the first cut on the record, “Besprinkled in Scarlet Horror,” where the music passes through several movements including the opening strains of a Bach-like fugue, into a metal monster, ending with a praise song complete with lilting flute. The song lyrics cover a lot of ground too. Kirkpatrick responds to the band’s critics who say that Tourniquet music is not sacred, but evokes demons, and that the past album covers are violent and gross.  “Besprinkled . . .” fades out with a soft praise tune, a music style the band’s critics would embrace, yet the song, still referencing the complaint of gross album covers and lyrics, goes:

If you arrived at the site
Of Calvary’s scarlet fright,
Would fears have made your feet take flight
And turn away from our Lord’s plight?
Speaking of album covers, this one is scary. A large green toothy demon holds the earth in one gnarled hand and the other dark green hand is imprinted with a bar code. In the foreground there is a magnifying glass enlarging a lovely green and black butterfly about to be sucked into a swirling downward vortex. The liner notes go into detail explaining the cover is a picture of ourselves when we can’t focus past out own little microscopic, selfish worldview. The only way to reveal and change the monster we become is to see that there is a big, lost, hurting world. To look out and realize that there is a telescopic realm out there, “ready to give our life a deeper meaning…” The explanation goes a long way towards making these visual grotesqueries palatable.

Singer/screamer Luke Easter has been with Tourniquet for about half of their time as a band, and I’m of the camp that likes his vocals. He reaches into many styles and does each well with style and grit. A good example is cut two, “Drinking from the Poisoned Well.” On this song he growls, sneers and screams, bringing alive the deep feelings that a song needs as it deals with how anger hurts and poisons the one angry more than the one who hurt them. Easter also has wonderful diction throughout the album. Whether he’s singing, screaming, or yelling/rapping, I can hear every word. With some lame metal records I’ve heard, being able to understand the words may be a problem, but not with Tourniquet. The thoughts are important and I want to hear every verse.

This tenth Tourniquet record is almost 70 minutes of high points. Tourniquet mixes classical influences with their great metal senses, bringing the listener along for the exciting, provocative ride. The music rocks and the lyrics are deep and thoughtful. Tourniquet has not pulled any punches for their new mainstream label, or any of their aforementioned critics. The band attacks topics like creation, getting right with God before death, how some people manipulate others with their sad life instead of moving on and getting through it. Other topics are the struggle of the Christian life, and how God’s grace is sufficient, repentance, or the lack there of, betrayal, and victory in Christ.  Strong and deep subjects, all dealt with from a strong and deep Christian perspective. The last lyric of the record is:

We call him Jehovah who’s always near
And you can win the battle when you pray without fear
The weak are victorious when the strong reaches down
And the ones who bring sadness will bow to the Crown
The trio of Kirkpatrick, Guerra and Easter have delivered one of their best efforts ever to Metal Blade records. Will the record sell? Will the band get the backing from the label that they deserve? Will you look at the world through a microscope or a telescope? Who knows. I’m only here to tell you, the music fans interested in this genre of metal that the new Tourniquet record shreds!
 

Tony LaFianza 4/9/2000

Tourniquet has finally returned to the progressive speed/thrash metal form fans have wished for ever    since the band left it in 1993 after Pathogenic Ocular Dissonance. The dozens of buzzing and clean guitar tones, time and tempo changes, sick leads, mad drumming, and added flute and cello are all back with whirlwind vengeance. It's not the brute force assault of most extreme metal, but rather, a lightning speed attack that never lets up and hits you a hundred places at once. Tourniquet have learned the one thing most metal bands unfortunately forget: make each song different from the others. They work hard at variety.  Almost to a fault; the variety of riffs and vocal styles even within each song is so overwhelming that it still takes many listens for the tracks to really stand alone from each other. They need to re-learn the second lesson, which they (though the only original member is Ted Kirkpatrick) had a firm grasp on in the early days: the variety needs to be bound to songwriting and not let loose for its own sake. Sometimes they succeed in this, but at others you get the feeling they're just throwing that acoustic break or third drum solo in for the heck of it.

Listening to Aaron Guerra and Ted Kirkpatrick's tight and technical mastery of guitars, bass, and drums has to be the greatest pleasure in the world for any guitarist or drummer (aside from playing themselves)--but Luke Easter's vocals are seriously off. He has three basic styles (with variations): tough metal yell-singing, grunt-like hardcore shouting, and soft ballad singing. Only the first one is listenable; the other two seem terribly mismatched to the music and are only bearable if you focus intently on the brilliant musicianship and crisp sonics. A few times he tries different things like zombie rasping and death-like vocals, and these actually work better with the music than any of his other attempts. The devoted fan has grown used to him, but he continues Tourniquet's traditional turn-off of bad vocals (Guy Ritter wasn't much better), which keeps their fanbase from growing among metalheads and musicians.

Their lyrics revisit favorite themes of faith, sin, and struggle, cloaked in familiar imagery of destruction,    suffering, and violence--all meant to convey the severity of our situation as fallen people who need to let our wounds be bound up before we die on the battlefield of life. From "Erratic Palpitations of the Human Spirit":
 

When you think that you've arrived
thousands more you have to drive 
Like a hand springing from the carnal six foot soil 
Buried many years ago never more again recoil 
When you think you stand alone you will fall despite your toil 
Josh Spencer  06/27/2000
 
Josh Spencer, contributing senior associate editor for The Phantom  Tollbooth for over two years, is also publisher and editor-in-chief of spiritual pop culture webzine Stranger Things.  Reviews and articles by him are usually simultaneously published in some form at http://www.strangerthingsmag.com.

When was the last time you were bludgeoned by music? That seems to be one of the very few phrases I can find to accurately describe the sheer volume and mass of Tourniquet’s latest disc, Microscopic View of a Telescopic Realm.

This collection of eleven bruising and brooding numbers takes the speed metal Tourniquet fans are so familiar with and, well, leaves it alone. How refreshing it is to hear a band that is truly comfortable with its place in the music scene. Tourniquet has no tricks up their sleeves, yet they pull no punches either. Quite simply, they rock. Hard.

Whether it’s the schizophrenic stop-and-go propulsions of “Besprinkled In Scarlet Horror” or the straight-ahead throbbing of “Servant of the Bones”, there’s something for the little metalhead in all of us on Microscopic View....

Around every corner is a jaw-dropping drum fill or a mind-blowing riff, pulled off by this trio of musical veterans who seem to be getting better with each record. Drummer/bassist Ted Kirkpatrick holds court at the band’s center, writing most of the material interpreted by vocalist Luke Easter and guitarist Aaron Guerra.

Kirkpatrick’s lyrics speak truth in a bold and brash way few are brave enough to try these days. From “The Skeezix Dilemma Part II”:

We call him Jehovah who’s always near
And you can win the battle when you pray without fear
The weak are victorious when the strong reaches down
And the ones who bring sadness will bow to the Crown
Musically potent and biblically sound (if a little on the fire-and-brimstone side), Tourniquet have-­yet again-­produced a solid and consistent album, one most worthy of a place among their finest.

Scotty Teems 4/9/2001

   
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