Restarter Finds Torche Sludgier And Taking More Risks Than Ever
Following the unbridled sonic playground established on 2012’s Harmonicraft, something new is happening for Miami’s bubblegum sludge-pop heroes Torche. The band has been enjoying quite the renaissance as of late, and fourth full-length album Restarter, while not quite as delirium-inducing as Harmonicraft, still furthers Torche’s mighty mission in subtle yet engulfing ways.
Singer/guitarist Steve Brooks continues to find a striking balance of accessibility and power that makes the overall sound extra-unique, bassist Jonathan Nuñez holds down the thick bottom end with thunder and grace, and drummer Rick Smith sounds more phenomenal than ever (frankly, the last time I saw Torche his remarkable performance particularly stood out).
But clearly the addition of second guitarist/vocalist Andrew Elstner (formerly of Saint Louis’ long-defunct Riddle of Steel — who I have written about on this site before and can boast Russian Circles drummer Dave Turncrantz as having played on RoS’ fantastic first album Python — and also currently of Atlanta’s Tilts) has opened up the vibe much further and given some breathing room for the original members to relax and play their roles more effectively. Elstner appeared on Harmonicraft as well — perhaps more recognizably than on Restarter, in fact — and the positive difference was undeniable right away.
Overall, Torche seems to have a renewed focus that is working wonders. Obviously the band has always had melody and harmony in spades, but Meanderthal‘s stop-start erratic hurky-jerkiness and Harmonicraft‘s chaotic prog assault has largely been replaced by laser-sharp precision and the courage to keep things simpler than ever with straight-shooting sludge that perseveres no matter what. And additionally, there is more experimentation with noisier, abstract, feedback-laden sections, creating a contrast that gives the forceful moments more impact.
These two attributes are demonstrated right out of the gate, with opening track “Annihilation Affair” both pummeling us via down-and-dirty sludge riff and ultimately settling into a loose outro that offers noise, ambience and screeching aplenty for two solid minutes — quite a ballsy move for the first song of an album.
And yet there are still plenty of catchy hooks throughout and Brooks’ vocals paint the perfect picture of sunshine-y beams of light into your earholes. A couple of the tracks in particular — “Bishop in Arms” and “Loose Men” — are classic Torche through and through, energetic breakneck speed jams resplendent with boppy grooves and lush poppy melodies that will induce ear-to-ear grinning and tweenage-style freakouts despite your decrepit age.
The remaining tracks find the balance in between major-key positivity and thick sludgy chugging while flipping between trudging, deliberate tempos (“Minions”/”No Servants”/”Believe It”/”Barrier Hammer”), and mid-tempo bangers (“Annihilation Affair”/”Undone”/”Blasted”), thus creating a diverse feel throughout.
The album closer/title track again returns to the philosophy of the opening track to combine a ripping tunnel vision riff that devolves into an extended, captivating ambient outro. Restarter shows us a more stripped-down yet adventurous Torche, one willing to take increased risks that may not always pay off in spades but ultimately serve to contribute to the evolution of one of our finest contemporary heavy bands.