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Album Reviews : Her Tortured Embrace – A Car Crash Fascination

By on April 9, 2012

Writing 30+ minute songs is certainly not the easiest task in the business, and having your entire release consist entirely of such a song is certainly an ambitious undertaking. Regardless, this is exactly what Melbourne’s Her Tortured Embrace have set out to do with their 2010 EP A Car Crash Fascination, consisting of, apparently, a single 33-minute song. The group’s musical and technical skills are the clear highlight of the piece, with the tight, technical and dynamic playing really shining through the entire release, though their structuring and arrangements really keep A Car Crash Fascination from being something incredible.

The band plays a complex, technical style of progressive metal, highly reminiscent of Between the Buried and Me, though with dashes of artists as disparate as Tool, Trivium and Karnivool strewn throughout. Fans of  Between the Buried and Me’s Colors are likely to really enjoy this band’s style of fiddly, complex riffs, shred passages and innovative drum patterns interlaced with a variety of clean chordal interludes. The vocals are similarly dynamic, suiting the music perfectly and, though they are also similar to those of Tommy Rogers of Between the Buried and Me, really help Her Tortured Embrace form a more distinctive sound. While the heavier sections rock a fairly standard growl akin to someone like Tommy Rogers or early Chad Gray (Mudvayne) it is the clean passages that really stand out, with vocalist Luke McDowell producing quite a different voice to what you typically hear in this style, perhaps somewhere between Maynard James Keenan (Tool) and early-era Corey Taylor (Slipknot, Stone Sour).

As you can possibly tell from the comparisons above, Her Tortured Embrace are producing music that is, if nothing else, certainly highly interesting and constantly engaging. The unusual combination of influences that shine through really give the band a unique sound that truly must be listened to again and again to properly be understood; though even then there is so much happening in the music that it is unlikely that anyone outside the band would fully understand everything that is going on. This is very much ‘active-listening’ music- don’t bother just putting this on to play in the background. With that being said, the band really does not make that easy for the listener. Now, this might just be a personal experience (if you will excuse some first-person intruding here) but while listening to the album, all the cool, zany material is really fun and certainly highly engaging, but afterwards very little of it seems to stick around and it all seems to disappear from memory fairly quickly.

It took me a little while to figure out why I wasn’t consistently enjoying this as much as I felt I should be before I realised the problem: A Car Crash Fascination really lacks good structure. Now, do not get me wrong on that point- like most fans of progressive metal, I love unusual song structures and arrangements, but there is clearly a difference between having unusual structures and having poor structure and this is a great example of that difference. The likes of Dream Theater and Tool obviously completely eschew standard song structures but in doing so none of the songs lose definition and clarity, that is, they still feel like cohesive, cogent songs. This is really where Her Tortured Embrace are not following through. Though “A Car Crash Fascination” is purported to be a single song, I just cannot hear it. Not only is there no overall structure to bind the whole piece, there do not appear to be any musical motifs or themes to easily grab at and there is a very noticeable lack of repetition of any of the sections, or this repetition is so widely spread that it is really hard to notice (which, again, is not an extrinsic problem, but it really hampers this particular release).

Furthermore, while the EP is claimed to be a single song, it is divided into five tracks that I can find no reference to anywhere, thus I’m left to assume they are just Parts 1-5. Again, this is fine except for the fact that the divisions seem completely arbitrary and no one part feels like a distinct entity. Compare this approach to, say, Tesseract’s “Concealing Fate” which is a similar length track divided into six, but in that case each part also feels like a song in its own right, while still contributing to the overall piece. So at the end of the day what we are left with in A Car Crash Fascination is one 33-minute piece that doesn’t feel like a song, divided into five arbitrary pieces that also don’t feel like songs.

With that being said however, it is a sign of how good the music is that all I have to complain about is how it is arranged. Her Tortured Embrace have some fantastic technical ability and a huge amount of potential for writing some great pieces. If this EP is an indication of what their future material will sound like then I look forward to them being able to bring all the parts of their sound together in such a way that can really blow the listener away, because they are certainly capable of it.  7/10

Band: Her Tortured Embrace
Album: A Car Crash Fascination
Year: 2010
Genre: Progressive Metal
Location: Melbourne, Australia
Label: None/Independent

A Car Crash Fascination (Parts 1-5)


Sam Maher is Metal Obsession's resident prog reviewer. He only likes songs that are at least 15 minutes long, contain 4 guitar solos and can only be described with a genre that is at least six words long. He also plays guitar for Sydney-based groovy melodic progressive technical death metal band Apparitions of Null.