The connection between drum 'n' bass and metal is somewhat well-documented. Simon Reynolds and Ian Christe have both pointed out that the preeminent dnb label is named Metalheadz. In Sound of the Beast, Christe likened the No U-Turn label to Death, Voivod, and Celtic Frost (he also astutely observed that the cover of the 1997 compilation Torque was like a cyborg version of Judas Priest's Screaming for Vengeance). I personally wouldn't make such comparisons (Voivod's futurism is/was much quirkier than dnb's), but spiritual connections definitely exist. Metal favors midrange, while dnb favors bass - and distortion brings them together.

"Darkside" drum 'n' bass existed before No U-Turn, but Torque was its point of no return. Sampling stabs from old techno records, overlaying dissonant strings, and, most importantly, running synth basslines through distortion pedals, No U-Turn put aggression ahead of the dancefloor. Like other dnb, their tunes had chopped-up Amen breaks. But they were lumbering and malevolent, often dropping in without warning. Before Torque, the label experimented with these elements, often with a dub reggae/gangsta rap vibe. However, Torque crystallized the sound into a hard, gleaming whole. Its vinyl pressing was steely and loud, turning dancefloors into war zones.

Amazingly, one guy was responsible for this sound. Nico Sykes engineered most, if not all, the seminal No U-Turn records, with a rotating cast of collaborators. (For what little press exists on the label, see here). In the No U-Turn stable, DJ Trace earned his reputation for singularly monolithic basslines. Ragged stabs strafe "Squadron," as its low end erupts from the bowels of hell; it's one of the most evil sounds I've ever heard. "Damn Son" samples Raekwon ("Damn son, you bleedin' son, bad son") over a massive, menacing rumble. Dnb went on to rather overt metal homages (e.g., Nightbreed's "Pack of Wolves" and Kemal & Rob Data's remix of Pantera's "Fucking Hostile"), but their dark genesis lay in Torque.

Torque is available for download at beatport.com.