It’s time again to pit several songs with the same title against each other. This time around it is one hell of a matchup – four legendary metal bands with the same-named song. In an odd coincidence, each instance of the song is on each band’s debut record. And they were all released within two years of each other between 1983 and 1985.
Today’s song is Tormentor,as the title suggests. This was also originally going to be my first post in this series but I punted this because it’s such a tough decision. And while I’m sure many other bands (especially metal bands) have recorded songs called Tormentor, I’m pretty sure this pool of four heavyweights of the industry can’t really be topped. Let’s begin.
Starting off with the venerable German thrashers, their version of Tormentor came in 1985 on their Infernal Overkill debut. I also included their 2000’s re-recording of the song because the original is pretty rough.
Destruction is the one I’m less familiar with because I didn’t get into them until the 2000’s, while I’ve listened to the other three bands for decades. The song is good, if perhaps under-developed. It is a simple tune that gets straight to the brutal point. While I’m usually bored by re-recorded stuff, Destruction has a famously bad sounding early discography and I think the re-recording gives new life to the song.
Back to America and 1983, where Slayer started the Tormentor game on Show No Mercy. The song was a standout for me from the album. It’s a simple yet effective riff with some badass Tom Araya wailing and the requisite tortured solo section. The verses and chorus are clearly delivered and paint a vivid picture of hunting someone down in the shadows, the delivery on this song is great.
One year ahead to 1984 and the self-titled debut of Blackie Lawless and company. W.A.S.P.’s take on Tormentor got a music video as the song was included on some obscure movie that the band also appeared in. This is also an album I covered in the Album of the Week series back last October.
Tormentor wouldn’t be considered the highlight of the debut album but the song still offers the raw, aggressive sound on offer from a startling and brilliant record. The song gets the job done and was part of a sound and image that scared the hell out of suburban America in the 1980’s.
We’ll head back to Germany and 1985 for the final version of Tormentor. It comes from Kreator’s debut Endless Pain, a very noteworthy album in the annals of thrash metal. Tormentor is a fitting inclusion on the album and is a savage and raw attack with a snarling vocal delivery and a pounding riff through its brief three minute run. While Kreator may have shared some production woes with countrymen Destruction, Kreator were able to make it work on this buzzsaw of an album. The gruff and unpolished sound would actually go on to influence metal bands.
So there we have four songs all named Tormentor from four of metal’s most well-known and loved groups. And it’s time to sort out who wins this little contest. I can rule out Destruction early, while I do like the track I think it pales a bit in comparison to the other three.
But this is where the trouble lies. The W.A.S.P. tune is great, but the Kreator song is snarling and savage, also just how I like it. And the Slayer song is a brilliant early performance from their first era.
And after a bit of review, it is Slayer who takes home the crown. In the end their song just goes places and communicates its horror story in a way that stands out from the pack. It’s a gem of a cut from their hallowed debut and a unique piece of sound from before their turn towards more straightforward and brutal thrash. And Tom Araya’s screams on that, holy hell how did he do that?
While these games can be fun when acts from all across music have cut songs with the same name, it gets really interesting when it’s all bands from one part of the spectrum. I guess tormenting people was a common thought among metal musicians in the early 80’s, I don’t know. I would be afraid of the night if I had all these long-haired metal freaks coming at me in the dark in 1984.