Vio-lence - Oppressing The Masses / Torture Tactics
Thrash Metal
12 songs (59:39)
Release year: 1990
Vio-lence, Atlantic Records
Reviewed by Ben
Archive review

Whenever Vio-Lence is brought up in metal circles you either get guys that start frothing at the mouth and begin throwing horns while yelling the band's name, or you get guys that or think of them as the prehistoric precursor to Machine Head seeing as how Phil Demmel and Robb Flynn were in both groups. I place myself firmly in the camp of those that get overly excited whenever they hear Eternal Nightmare. Long out of print (it was a big deal when my friend found it on cd back in the day) and clocking in about ten minutes longer than seminal thrash-terpiece Reign In Blood, Eternal Nightmare is similar in feel with its emphasis on absolute speed, manic vocals, and non stop drumming. The abbreviated length makes for a sweet auditory treat to enjoy whenever the mood strikes. That however was their debut and this, their followup, marked several distinct new angles to the band's "dozen riffs a minute" songwriting structure.

Two huge changes on Oppressing The Masses are at once evident. The tempo isn't always at five hundred bpm and the lyrics are much more societal in nature. Whereas the first era of the band had lyrics that ranged from making fun of cripples, serial killers, Pol Pot dictators committing mass genocide, intravenous drug overdoses, government employed hitmen used to assassinate foreign dignitaries in order to instigate coups, and human roadkill, Oppressing The Masses deals with crooked police, political corruption, corporate financial manipulation for profit, life in an insane asylum, alcoholism and domestic abuse, and mental illness. Vocalist Sean Killian has toned down his hundred mile an hour delivery and singing is much clearer on this album. Don't take this as me being one of the complainers that thinks the vocals on Eternal Nightmare are "weird" and "don't fit." That style of delivery worked for the music there and the performance here fits the music on this album. Gang vocals are all over the place which give this a really grimy and dirty feel to it. Knowing how the band looked back then, these harsh group shouts in songs like I Profit and Officer Nice have a real "street vibe" where it feels like you're in the thick of the lyrical matter.

I keep talking about the lyrics because they are actually interesting. Officer Nice is very clear in its depiction of a cop who rips off drug dealers, takes their drugs and / or money, gives them a week of "free reign" for info, shoots tear gas, and all sorts of outlandish shit. I'm a huge fan of the line "... I'll be back / for your cash or a bust!" although I change the last word to "buzz" because I like to imagine a crazy cop hauling ass in an unmarked car doing blow from some stash house he ripped off, while his overly powered revolver is sitting in the passenger's seat. I Profit is a vicious condemnation of how those in power wield their authority like a weapon and leech the lower class dry in order to fill their own pockets. Very relatable to anybody who is a low paid wage worker who generates profits that are hundreds of times what they are paid. World In A World had a cool but low budget music video that received a bit of airplay back in the day. Probably the track most people would be familiar with, this is from the perspective of a man who's sentenced to twenty years in an insane asylum. "Sorry in the cell with the rest of the dogs / I do nothing but wait / I'm being fed shit, tormented, such hate." The World In A World is about the "world" of institutionalized incarceration / insanity treatment, inside the world that normal people live in. Subterfuge deals with electing politicians as puppet speakers who are controlled by those with the money and the real power. Again, pretty cool stuff that makes you think a little bit.

Since Oppressing The Masses has been reissued by a few different sources now, there are some reissues out there that include the short Torture Tactics EP. This was a four song release that was originally put out separately and on a different label because the title track omitted from Oppressing The Masses for being too violent. Well, the critics weren't wrong, but this is metal we're talking about! Censorship is completely antithetical to the core beliefs of metal! That being said, these are some really hard hitting lyrics all about torture. Pretty chilling, but this stuff actually happens in real life so who are we to pretend otherwise? Musically, Torture Tactics is a super fast and super angry song that has a real psychotic edge to it. Sean definitely has the vibe of some crazed out madman in a surgical mask and vinyl apron who's about to go to work. The rest of the EP is pretty much worthless except for a recording of Gutterslut which goes back to the band's very early days when Sean wasn't the singer. Because of this, Torture Tactics gets more play than it would had it been purchased individually. I really don't see myself putting it on to hear one real song, a fake live track, an old song, and a throwaway song about their dicks.

There's really only two albums that count in this band's career. Eternal Nightmare receives the unanimous glowing praise, and rightfully contains some of Vio-Lence's most known songs. Keep in mind though those were all written long before the band recorded the debut album so they had lots of time to hone and refine what was eventually released. Oppressing The Masses is seen as the "weaker" album, but only in the sense that getting flattened by a Ford Ranger is "weaker" than getting flattened by a F-250. Either way, they're still running you over. The lyrics here are kind of disturbingly relatable. I don't know if that has to do with being older now or the sharp increase in maturation on behalf of Sean. Recommended to thrash fans and even notable if only as an example of well done "social awareness metal."

Killing Songs :
I Profit, Officer Nice, Oppressing The Masses, Torture Tactics
Ben quoted 79 / 100
Other albums by Vio-lence that we have reviewed:
Vio-lence - Eternal Nightmare reviewed by Aaron and quoted 89 / 100
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