Metal Review – Shadow of the Torturer: Dronestown

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Metal Review – Shadow of the Torturer: Dronestown
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Shadow of the Torturer: Dronestown
Doom Metal, Drone, Sludge
Self-release, Memento Mori (2014 Reissue)
May 2nd, 2013 / July 31st, 2014
Release length: 39:58 / 56:44
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Shadow of the Torturer is a Doom Metal group that hails from Seattle, Washington. It was started by guitarist and vocalist Mikey Brown in 2006 as a way to jam with various musicians. By 2012 it became much more than that. The line-up came together, changing from a trio to the four-piece it is today while issuing a handful of singles and a split recording with Ghosts of Wem. In May of 2013, the group’s first full-length effort Dronestown, a two song conceptual piece based on the Jonestown Massacre, was finally made available independently as a digital download an vinyl pressing. But is this conceptual effort even worth a second look, or is Dronestown a breathtakingly bleak look at one of the most horrific of cult activities?

Dronestown features some of the band’s longest material, and each of the extensive cuts pushes the concept of the release in a different manner. “Indianapolis / Ukiah” is a barren piece of Death Metal infused Doom that creeps along in a haunting manner best left to the deepest of catacombs. Additional ritualistic voices fade from left to right behind the vocals, handling the lyrics as if preaching the sermon Jim Jones, leader of the Peoples Temple, would have given. Each word and shift in style play up the hopelessness of being part of this cult as it moves closer to the terrible fate it was destined to reach. Over four minutes pass before richer guitars kick in, only solidifying the sense of marching to one’s own demise accentuated by louder, richer drum rhythms, a far more dominant bass presence that sometimes rattles through earlier on, and snarling rasps that are sinister as the lyrics intentions become. The hostility does give way to hypnotic crushing riffs complimented with deep growling to recount the final moments of the obedient members in order to set the stage for the following horror.

That nightmare, entitled “We are a Righteous People / Guyana,” starts more as a Drone experience that uses chunks of audio to highlight those very last moments the members were all alive together. Whether this is actual recorded evidence of mass suicide or taken a film, it still offers up a truly frightening look into the world of cults as you hear the preacher convincing everyone to continue on while assuring them that no one is feeling any pain as they die, while other members praise him and assure the crying children this is not something to shed tears about, but rather embrace as a positive event. The merciless bass and slow progression of the music behind these clips only furthers the procession to its inevitable end while reminding you how easily some people can be manipulated by religion and those who use it to obtain a horrendous goal. The impact is dulled slightly as the vocals kick back in at eleven minutes, belting out raspy no’s, as if the voice of those in defiance that cannot be heard until silenced once more to children’s screams and continued assurances with short bursts of gutturals scattered across the last seven minutes. The only real fault is that the conclusion doesn’t necessarily capture the silence afterwards, something that greatly would help considering the role you as a listener have with this album as being one of the members at that very location.


It’s been a little more than a year since Shadow of the Torturer laid out their terrifying debut album Dronestown on vinyl and digital formats. For 2014, Memento Mori Records have picked up the release, making it available for the first time on CD. This version also includes “Afterlife / Cities of the Damned” as a bonus track, which comes off the Blinddate Records split with Ghosts of Wem. While not as horrifying as the two main tracks of the album itself, the dismal atmosphere and crushing bass-driven Doom Metal presence still exists. Slow marching patterns align the entire performance, shifting slightly to bulkier Sludge Metal riffs near the six minute mark that are far from any less burdening or hypnotic, grabbing your skull and bobbing your head along obediently to the mighty performance that has the power to become something far more epic, even more violent than you think it possibly could be.


Dronestown is one of those incredibly rare albums that leaves a lasting mark on the listener right from the very first spin. Shadow of the Torturer have issued a number of killer songs in the past, but none of them live up to the impact this two song album has. On one side you have the traditional focus on the soul crushing power of the Doom Metal genre and power of the bass as you marching on to your own demise thanks to solid, restrained drumming. The shifting of vocals helps establish the progression of the concepts nightmare that is about to unfold before laying into you with the second track that is simply horrifying if you have any idea what the release is about, or at least paid attention to the first track’s lyrics. This terrifying representation of how easily some people can be manipulated into believing those who seek to use an established religion for truly corrupted means speaks volumes about humanity as a whole as the voices captured against the funeral procession terrify you to the core, all the while tearing the heart right of your chest. If you have yet to hear Dronestown, the time to open your eyes and experience Horror in it’s more realistic form is now, especially with the Memento Mori reissue upon us. Whichever version you pick up is more a matter of taste since the bonus track is available through the group’s Bandcamp page and offers little to the overall concept of the release, but does end up a nice treat to chase the Kool-Aid you already partook of.

Initial Release:
01. Indianapolis / Ukiah – 18:07
02. We are a Righteous People / Guyana – 21:52

2014 Reissue:
03. Afterlife / Cities of the Damned (Bonus Track) – 16:47

Initial Pressing Score: 9.5/10

2014 Reissue Score: 9.5/10

Shadow of the Torturer
Shadow of the Torturer

Digital review copy of this release provided by Memento Mori Records via Transcending Obscurity.