Album Review: Torche, ‘Restarter’
Torche are a metal band for people who don’t care about metal and they’re somehow simultaneously favorites of even the most discerning metal purists. While the prerequisite genre hallmarks are all accounted for (the relentless rhythmic onslaught, the searing riffs and the unintelligible lyrics), Torche have been infusing infectious melodies, shoegaze spaciness and fuzzed-out ‘90s guitar theatrics into the mix since 2004, when they emerged out of Miami as one of the most upbeat doom rockers in the world.
Frontman Steve Brooks had previously fronted the sludge metal outfit Floor – known for their straight-ahead, no-frills approach to writing catchy songs that are also quite capable of leveling small cities. When Brooks assembled Torche, he brought along Floor guitarist Juan Montoya and myriad elements of Floor’s approach, initially creating a dusty sound akin to ‘90s stoner acts like Kyuss and Monster Magnet.
But Torche didn’t burst into fame until their second album, 2008’s Meanderthal – a critically beloved amalgam of driving, full-tilt drone metal and sugary pop melodies. Montoya split from the band after the release, leaving the band to record their follow-up EP, 2010’s Songs for Singles, as a trio. The result was a far less vast aural stretch and eight tightly-wound tracks fixed on efficient sonic evisceration. 2012’s Harmonicraft recaptured some of Torche’s more spacious tendencies, but the album (featuring the band again as a four-piece) was an obvious push toward bright and bouncy pop that left Torche firmly at a crossroads: Would they follow the light or eventually fall back into the darkness?
Their fourth album, Restarter, answers that question immediately. From the opening chug-along of “Annihilation Affair,” the disc is a pulsating, behemoth of a return to Brooks’ days in Floor – a band who not-coincidentally reunited after Torche’s last album. Restarter sounds exactly like the title suggests – another beginning for the band which Brooks has described as “fun metal,” but also their hardest-hitting album to date. The melodies and hooks remain in spades, but songs like “Minions,” “Undone” and the appropriately titled “Barrier Hammer” would fit neatly alongside Torche’s most visceral sludge anthems. What’s missing, however, is any semblance of air – the album’s 10 tracks are intensely focused with creative flourishes foregone in favor of maximized minimalism.
Although Restarter lacks some of the prettier, glossier moments on Meanderthal, it doesn’t stray far from what fans would expect; the lyrics and themes are secondary to the overwhelming sound. There are no gimmicks, no distractions -- just one of the most uplifting metal albums you’ll hear ... and Torche’s best in years.