The Phantom Tollbooth
Diet of Worms
Artist: Echo Hollow
Label: independent
Time: 7 tracks / 41:00 minutes
Only three seconds left in the game, folks! Is Echo Hollow going to shoot again? For the longest time now, the crowd has sat on the sidelines, watching them handle the ball and make a lay-up or two, but most of them have left out of impatience. The faithful few that remain are staunch fans indeed, but Lenaire and Ritter are going to need a real slam-dunk finish to rouse some applause! Wait a minute...they've finally shot the three, for the game! It's going up, up, up...hits the rim...bounces the backboard...and goes in! Whew, it's over. The fans applaud and shuffle out, satisfied but wondering what took so long.
That's the effect this album has. After almost two years of hints, rumors, and one-song teasers, former Tourniquet superstars Guy Ritter (vocals) and Gary Lenaire (guitars) have finally released the first album by their new band, Echo Hollow. Expectations were high. In a way the album delivers; in a way it doesn't.
The best news is that Diet of Worms revisits familiar Tourniquet sonic haunts in addition to forging new territory. The first three songs are packed full of Psycho Surgery and Pathogenic Ocular Dissonance-era progressive guitarwork, echo effects, vocals, tones, and studio tricks, but are a notch or two down in aggression and heaviness. They explore topics like Martin Luther's fight against the Catholic Church during the Reformation, the need for God in the Thurston High School shooting situation (Lenaire and Ritter both went there), and a plea for former Tourniquet bassist Victor Macias, and any other "Christian who has lost his way," to come home to God. Each song is at around six minutes, and taken together provides the most satisfying section of the album.
After that, the album becomes a little inconsistent. "A Fool's Errand" is a simple heavy rock tune with the old Tourniquet tone, but little of the technicality, and the album's most painfully unappealing chorus:
         Sometimes I want to jump into my car
         And drive it off a cliff
         Sometimes I want to jump into my car
         And drive it off a cliff.
"Take My Shoes" is a unique no-distortion song with haunting finger-picking, shuffling drums, and deep, muffled, almost spoken-word vocals contrasting with a mournfully sung plea to step into someone else's place for once. "Sunday Bloody Sunday" is their masterful and emotional cover of the U2 song, already featured on HM's Mother of all Tribute Albums, and the closing song, "Through the Veil," is a slow-tempo metal worship song that seems to be building, building, building...then breaks into a totally unexpected bluesy funk jam for the last minute of seven. This strange, incomplete ending leaves you wishing for a few more songs to round out the album.
All in all, though, Diet of Worms is an interesting project. It brings out lost Tourniquet sounds for yearning fans while branching into very original new territory, but in some odd way it's a bit underwhelming--like a hollow echo of their former glory. Of course, fans of old Tourniquet and unusual hard music have no choice but to pick it up--just be sure to nail all your expectations at the door. You'll find much more to appreciate that way.
By Josh Spencer   (2/10/99)