Premiere: Torrential Downpour – “Basilisk”
Sorry in advance for KOing your eyeballs, this one needs exposition: New Jersey’s Torrential Downpour are a gift for the jaded among us, however the jaded just don’t know it yet. And that’s worrying, because there’s a chance their grouchy guard never drops and Torrential Downpour are unfairly swept away into obscurity. Stated up front: These gentlemen deserve better.
Now, granted, those aforementioned ramparts are raised for good reason: We’ve all gotten burned by a band or a billion who claimed eclecticism but delivered tepid tracings of templates solely influenced by the scene equivalent of Foster’s rule. So, when this quartet is tagged ‘space metal’ without a Hawkwind follow-up, when the players are credited pulling triple duty on samplers and synths, and when there’s a mention of a six-string bass, sighs are tough to stifle. If you’re jaded, it’s almost involuntary. That said, this is music: eyes lie. Hearing does not. A stream turns sighs into gasps. Jade is smashed, releasing from its cell a “holy crap.” That might sound strange vocalized. After all, it has probably been a long while since the jaded have said it.
Though, perhaps not as long as Torrential Downpour have spent learning, and learning to trust, their craft. Founders Peter Costa (drums) and Matt Cece (bass) are vets, having gotten the ball rolling way back in the nü-dark ages of the late ’90s; when finding solid players not rocking parachute pants and bleached liberty spikes was a damn difficult proposition. Near the end of the millennium, singer/manipulator/sample-scientist PrKr joined the collective, soon followed by guitarist Jason Volpe, thus completing the Torrential Downpour core. Impressive: a decade and a half is almost an eon in musical measurement. Needless to say, all involved have had the right amount of time to feel out their fellow mates.
Thankfully, they’ve spent the time wisely. Over the years, the four aligned to the same wavelength, stretching their skills by spurring each other to take greater risks. Volpe: “During our live set we started to include improvised melodic interludes between songs.” That’s no small feat, no PR aside to be immediately forgotten. To properly pull that improvisation off — and, if it’s not clear, they do — all members need to trust their companions. Fully. No doubt can linger or it will all come crashing down. Be that as it may, that trust only comes with experience; it can’t be rushed. The work is tough. The work is worth it: to trust is to let go and snip the tethers. Again, this isn’t as simple as flipping a switch. To put it as eloquently as Elvin Jones, “You gotta be willing to die with the motherfucker.” Across a series of self-released records, Torrential Downpour showed they were willing and able. Truth Knowledge Vision, their newest, is the blood, sweat, and tears. They’ve destroyed themselves so their sound can endure forever.
Okay, the reason we’ve busily recounted more backstory than a Game of Thrones intro is to lay the foundation for why Truth Knowledge Vision‘s 11 tracks aren’t the messes made by the unburdened-by-mullets Dillinger-disciples that flunked core calculus throughout the mid-aughts. Torrential Downpour are simply superior. Indeed, the outfit can be categorized within the same genre cloud as past tour-mates and fellow confidence-exuding, expectation-effers Cleric and Car Bomb; especially the former’s attention to texture, especially the latter’s rhythmic ingenuity. In fact, one could draw endless upper-crust comparisons: Coprofago getting an assist from a pissed Devin Townsend while, in the next room, Cave In and Vangelis try to kill one another with sine-waves; a frustrated Meshuggah beating the pulp out of a Catch-33 riff; December’s Mark Moots falling out an open window; Pat Metheny and Ornette Coleman re-coding the universe in binary. These comps are fleeting, the half-lives incredibly short. Torrential Downpour don’t sit still for you. They can’t, they’re flying at lightspeed and we’re stuck in traffic. They’ve had the time to plot these points and they’ve plotted a lot of ’em. That realization stops the similar-artist-shtick. You pull back and see the bigger picture: The culmination of collected experiences is Torrential Downpour. It ain’t about playing Guess Who? It’s the totality of the thing.
Fine, one more RIYL sticker: “Basilisk”‘s non-noise opening is a riff delivered to Trey Spruance via dreams. Then, Torrential Downpour cue an alarm causing the cut to sputter, tripping into a night terror soundtracked with a skipping cybergrind CD. PrKr does the play-by-play for the hellish descent. Volpe’s lines dive-bomb listeners like a Falling Down-disease-afflicted eagle. Costa and Cece supply the rhythmic punctuation, herding the WTF exploits into babelfish comprehensibility. Blasting palpitations stack, causing shortness of breath. On the brink of atmospheric burn-up, when “Basilisk”‘s speed-wobbles seem to foreshadow destruction, Torrential Downpour pull up on the stick, sending the tune towards a harmonious om. Suddenly, we’re on a different plane. Nevertheless, the rising bowel-evacuating drone — a wum feeling as though blood has flooded your ears — implies the damage is already done. The end.
Welcome to the next six months of fan-created YouTube playthrough videos. Welcome to a day of dusting your CD rack to prepare your home for the new addition. Holy crap.
“Basilisk” is the sixth track on Truth Knowledge Vision. The album will hit the streets on June 10. In the meantime, head over to their Bandcamp for more material.