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Listen Up, Nerds: Torture

Listen Up, Nerds: Torture

Welcome back to a miniature version of Listen Up, Nerds: America’s Premier Subculture-Based Newsletter. Today, we talk about Torture.

Torture is a one-man Chicago-based tech-death “avant-slam” (it’s in the Bandcamp tags, don't shoot me) band whose music is goddamn brutal. Seriously. Listen to any fifteen seconds of this record and you’ll feel that pit in your stomach open up. It’s not for the faint of heart. When music writers say “machine-gun drums,” they are underselling what a true sicko like the guy from Torture has done. The bass drums sound like the Browning M2 mounted on the top of Humvees patrolling Iraq and Afghanistan and it’s no accident.

Torture’s music is the sound of warfare. Literally. It is an interpretation of the acts of American aggression on foreign soil and the purposefully-obtuse “War On Terror” that the state uses to legitimize killing civilians abroad and for further encroaching on personal freedoms in the name of “safety.” Torture’s music and artwork also focuses on the depraved acts of American soldiers whose inhumane treatment of prisoners landed them in hot water, but were ultimately forgotten and written off as an isolated incident. Through researching for this writeup, I learned that only a few people involved in the Abu Ghraib prisoner torture scandal were sentenced to prison and those with sentences longer than a couple of years got out early on parole. Pardon me, but what the fuck? That’s it? I don’t even believe in prison and that feels light. For the act of dehumanizing other people, enacting a living nightmare on them for weeks, you get a dishonorable discharge and maybe a fine. That’s it.

American atrocities analyzed through art aren’t a new concept, but what Torture has made is genuinely thrilling and sickening work. Isolated from its context, it’s some of the heaviest music put to tape. It’s absurdly heavy. Torture sounds the way that your mom thinks all the music you like sounds. Torture sounds like pressing a 5lb brick of raw flesh through a sieve. The vocals sound like the gurgles from victims in terrorist beheading videos. It’s horrific, disgusting, vile music. 

In its context, I think it does a great job of bringing the war to the listener. There are a lot of first-wave industrial and power electronics bands whose music or noise seeks to emulate the violence perpetrated by fascists and other villains of history, and I think that’s a fair comparison for the music itself but it misses the mark otherwise. Emulating the violence and causing discomfort is one thing but often, it's a reminder that a bad thing happened. It's a history lesson at best. It’s rarely as challenging to the political landscape as it claims. Shifting to the act’s politics, I think the most apt comparison to make is the music of Muslimgauze. Muslimgauze sought to champion the liberation movements in the Middle East, humanizing them while they were vilified in Western-world press for the grave sin of Fighting Back when your territory is occupied by a foreign military. Torture seeks to humanize the victims of colonialism and, well, torture in the Middle East, a stark reminder of the injustices that plague the region to this very day. Speaking of the War and violence, let’s get to the live show.

Torture played their first shows as a full band this week and jesus christ dude. The heaviness, the glee from onlookers, the violence in the pit... It’s perfect. Above, I’ve posted the band’s first-ever show. It’s a sight to behold. The band is having a ton of fun and so is anyone who’s not catching a fist to the face during the set. KK, who plays drums and has masterminded this whole thing, shouts orders to kill each other and slam. He sounds bloodthirsty. He’s commanding troops in battle. It’s just so perfect. It’s really rare to see this level of artistry in hardcore spaces and it’s beautiful to see the appreciation. Below, the band’s second-ever show, a hometown show in Chicago in the back of a taco place:

Like most modern art, the reaction is part of the art, too. Some people are cheering for the band, some are here for the spectacle. Some attendees get violent with each other, repeating the violence portrayed in the art. Other audience members watch the physical violence in front of them unfold with a smile on their face and others find themselves stopping the violence. Yes, they appreciate the heaviness. No, they did not support the War On Terror. Yes, they cheer loudly when KK shouts “FREE PALESTINE.” No, they do not sit back and reflect on the art. They came to see this band and beat the piss out of each other.

Wanting peace on Earth and violence in the pit is a fine moral stance, at least when you ask me about it. It’s not hypocritical, they’re two different things, but the heaviness in the art the crowd is here to experience doesn’t exist without the violence abroad. In no uncertain terms, this band would not exist if 9/11 didn’t happen. There is a direct line between America inserting itself into the Gulf War in 1990 and some guy getting his shit rocked in a taco shop in Chicago, 34 years later. The people in the video look younger than me and the Gulf War was raging for some time even before I was born. The people in the video are paying for crimes committed before they existed, before they were an idea. It’s somewhat valiant in that regard. If you’re lucky enough to see Torture live, it is your moral imperative to get in the pit and take a fist or a boot to the face as punishment for American war crimes abroad. Do the right thing.

Crying Bald Eagle by BenjiRivera1991 on DeviantArt