February 12, 2015 Torche – Restarter (Album Review)
Heavy Rock outfit Torche hails from the sunny locals of Miami, Florida. Founders Steve Brooks (guitar, vocals), Juan Montoya (guitar), Jonathan Nuñez (bass), and Rick Smith (drums) came together in 2004 and began to make music immediately. Although Montoya left the band acrimoniously in 2008, Torche continued on as a three piece. Since 2005, the band has released three full-length studio albums, four EPs, two split albums, and three singles. It would not be until 2011 that the announcement was made that Andrew Elstner (Riddle of Steel, Tilts) would be joining the band. Their 2012 release, Harmonicraft, (Volcom), was a somewhat unique offering in a landscape filled with bands searching for a musical genre, since Torche rejects specific, media apointed labels like Sludge Metal and Stoner Metal. As a matter of fact, Brooks says that he does not consider Torche to be Metal at all, but a collection of the influences of each band member. These influences are quite varied, and Torche is more interested in making music than in staying inside of a musical cubicle. The band’s willingness to explore all of its influences is clearly at the heart of their latest album, Restarter, soon to be released February 24, 2015, a ten song record that is their first with Relapse Records. Restarter was recorded in Miami, Florida, and was produced by Nuñez. The mixing of the record was handled by Kurt Ballou of Converge, who had worked with Torche on their previous two offerings, Harmonicraft and 2008’s Meanderthal (Hydra Head), and also appeared as a guest guitarist on Meanderthal. Ballou has a long list of production credits, including but not limited to Isis, Converge, Kvelrtak, Doomriders and High on Fire.
Restarter begins with “Annihilation Affair,” a track that conveys the sheer size of this record. Feeling out of round, yet always resolving in a way that is satisfying for the listener, it delivers a complex chord structure and syncopated rhythms provided by Smith. The next track, “Bishop In Arms,” opens with a powerful vocal harmony before taking off on a high speed tom tom train. This track has a Punk feel – short, powerful and full of energy. Next is “Minions,” a track that brings the tempo down but keeps the intensity level high. Torche manages to write powerful songs at any and every speed, and this track is a slow headbanger. With a slight Manic Street Preachers vibe, “Loose Men” showcases the vocal prowess of Brooks, although the performance sits back and adds to the track instead of dominating over it. Next up is “Undone.” Coming in under two minutes, this track has a churning grind running through it, provided by a tremendously thick bass tone by Nuñez. Delivering both catch and grit at once, “Blasted” is a filthy, dirty Pop Rock tune, walking a tightrope and making it to the other side in one piece. “No Servants” feeds back for the first third of the song, daring the listener to skip the entire track, but the usually irritating sound becomes hypnotic and irreplaceable. Gripping in its modesty, “Believe It” twists time and feel into a track that stands apart, yet belongs a part of the collective. Hands down, “Barrier Hammer” is the heaviest track on the record. Brooks and Elstner churn out rapidly changing chord progressions over a deep, subterranean grind and haunting vocals, making it a true highlight for fans of Heavy Metal. “Restarter” is a propulsive, dynamic closer that drags the listener along. Fueled by Smiths’ pounding, pulsing drums and the soothing bass of Nuñez, this song is mesmerizing in its welcome repetition.
Heavy Rock monsters Torche have composed and delivered a wide open, gritty record, playing with a raw, live approach. The sound is huge and infectious, with great melodies and crushing ooze. This is a record that is simultaneously catchy and wholly unclean. Torche combines top-notch songwriting and stirring, harmonic vocals to create records that are heavier, louder, and catchier than anyone out there today. Highlights include aforementioned tracks, “Annihilation Affair,” ” Minions,” ” Blasted,” ” Barrier Hammer,” and “Restarter.” In support of the new album Torche is up for a March North American tour before heading to Europe beginning on May 2nd in Leipzig, Germany, with subsequent shows in Poland, the Czech Republic, Spain, Ireland and Italy as well as Portugal and the United Kingdom. Cryptic Rock gives Restarter 4 out of 5 stars