Tormentor – Anno Domini (1995)
Note: Anno Domini was originally released in 1989 on cassette, and Metal Archives calls it a “demo”. A more official looking release came out in 1995, hence the date.
I once defined the concept of “1.5th wave black metal” because I thought I heard something qualitatively different from the movement’s earliest members despite being well timed to exert some influence on later movements (Norway, etc), or at least being isolated enough to remain obscure. Tormentor is a textbook example, being the spawning ground of Atilla Csihar (who went on to join Mayhem) and a Hungarian band that formed before the collapse of the Warsaw Pact. Their music has clear links to the primitive, deconstructive tendencies of the earliest contributors to the genre, but is noticeably more atmospheric and elaborate, if still fairly crude in application.
I don’t know why Anno Domini turned out the way it did, but it seems to capture the band quickly boosting the intensity and aggression of their work. The first real track (“Tormentor I”) for instance, is played faster than the musicians can really handle, and this sloppiness permeates many of the quicker tracks here. The push towards musical elaboration, though, means that even these often incorporate some degree of consonant melody that would often be deemphasized or entirely absent in contemporary American or European death metal. This isn’t a consistent reality even in more elaborate tracks, like “Elizabeth Bathory”, but this is definitely an early benchmark of how to add conventional musicality back into the evolving extreme metal formula without sacrificing the latter.
Tormentor’s ‘career arc’ (at least as gauged from this album and what little I’ve heard of their other work) surprisingly reminds me of that of Mayhem, albeit with less murder and offstage depravity. It’s most likely because Atilla Csihar was directly involved with both bands. While their earliest works share little of the initial sound, Tormentor’s move towards complexity and development is similar to the one that eventually lead to De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas. Actually gauging direct influence is beyond what I can research firsthand, but the level of contact between the bands does make me wonder. If the band hadn’t broken up in 1991, it probably would’ve continued to develop in this direction, and hypothetical albums in this vein could possibly resemble later black metal.
From a historical stance, this is absolutely essential to anyone who’s interested in charting the evolution of the black metal movement. The push towards complexity on Anno Domini is admittedly held back by the musicians’ inexperience at times, but it’s still a refreshing change from some of its more intentionally simplistic comrades.
Highlights: “Elizabeth Bathory”, “Damned Grave”, “In Gate of Hell”, “Beyond”