We’ve had a variety of opinions from a variety of writersover the years regarding Tornts. Some of our staff felt he was “an emcee in his own category that isn’t afraid to tell it like it is” and others saw him as “Australian horrorcore, love it or leave it” (with an emphasis on the last two words). Any time our staff is that evenly divided or polarized about an emcee I take extra interest in what they’re going to do next. Thanks to the good timing of arriving during the holiday season, Tornts’ “Street Visions” came to our offices at precisely the wrong time for me to distribute it to any other staffer, affording me both the time and opportunity to be the third writer in our crew to take a look at his skills.
Tornts predilection toward dark macabre rapping is obvious on the opening track “Dirty Town,” which coincidentally is the only video I can find on YouTube for the album. This is the wrong song to start with if you’ve never been exposed to Tornts before, largely because Kharnivor’s beat does nothing for him. It’s a sound exercise in sound, with Tornts vocals coming out clearly over big booming bass, but it’s also built around an incredibly uninteresting melody made up of just a few alternating notes. In a darkened room full of flickering candles, it might make for a good scare, but in the broad light of day the instrumental is boring and repetitive. Tornts offers quips like “So repugnant/in the jungle where the vines are power lines/we Herman Munster’ed, get amongst it” in an attempt to brighten up the track – he can’t save it though.
Thankfully the rest of the album is at a much higher level. Beat Butcha’s “Life” keeps the darkness without the monotony, giving the Melbourne rapper a melancholy backdrop of pipe organs and bass worthy of M.O.P. The self-produced “This Place” featuring Apprentice shows Tornts can pull double duty effectively, and lines like “Roman to Gaul/acidic bile in the gut of the diamondback/vampire cutting through your neck leaving dirty plaque” are attention getting. Ciph Barker’s beat on “I Do This” is about as close to happy and upbeat as Tornts is going to get, but sentiments like “you can make it out the call fucking go/living ’round the city bruh there’s dead souls” take the track deep into the darkness.
For my money it’s overly simplistic to call Tornts a horrorcore rapper, which is essentially true of anybody given the label in an attempt to pigeonhole their style. There’s no doubting the eerie darkness of the pianos and lyrics of “Scimitar” or the brutal hope killing nature of his self-produced “Say Nothing,” but the beats and rhymes don’t come across like a David Cronenberg directed film. There’s a natural malevolence to Tornts’ music and style that reflects his personality without any forced attempt to shock or scare listeners. There’s also a natural hip-hop swagger to his raps: “I laugh at your shit with a Slick Rick tone/my bottle is a liquid home, and I don’t wanna see your dome/you couldn’t get shine if your were dipped in chrome.” The dour sound may not make him accessible to the mainstream, but it’s fairly obvious he has little regard for pop music, and few rappers would seem more out of place in a R&B song cameo than Tornts. That’s fine with me. I enjoy that Tornts stands out from the rest.