Torche- Restarter

By Chris Dahlberg

Published on Sunday, February 22, 2015

Torche has been around for over a decade now, and has been bringing listeners heavy grooves that often fall somewhere between sludge, stoner rock, and a wide range of other genres with each album. Each of their full lengths has kept that signature lumbering groove while adding different ideas around it, and 2012’s Harmonicraft found the band more hook driven than ever before. I wouldn’t necessarily say that they mellowed out on that record, as there still plenty of downright crushing sections, but there were a few more riffs that got stuck in my head for days on end and Harmonicraft ended up being an album I spent a considerable amount of time with. A little less than three years later, Torche now finds themselves signed to Relapse and has written a new full length called Restarter. It feels like an appropriate title, as it finds them returning to the extremely heavy rock grooves of their self-titled debut while also incorporating some of the melodic hooks of the last record. Although it may not have as immediate of an impact on the listener, the more time that you spend with this one the more it will give back and it’s definitely one of those efforts that’ll grow on you more with each spin.

In many regards Restarter finds Torche doing what they’ve always done well, which is mixing crushingly heavy grooves and dense tonality with catchy hooks. But I found that when I first started listening to the record the songs didn’t quite have that same initial wow factor as Harmonicraft. Part of the reason to this is because I personally feel like the record is stacked towards the second half, with “No Servants” through “Barrier Hammer” delivering what might be some of the densest and heaviest songs the band has written in years. That’s not to say that there aren’t quality riffs to be found elsewhere, but that first listen hadn’t quite sold me on this one just yet. It wasn’t until another couple times through that Restarter really started to click, and at that point all of the nuances began to sink in. The melodically oriented tracks don’t have quite as much of an immediate hook to them, but the more you listen to Torche’s latest effort the more they start to get under your skin. “Annihilation Affair” proves to be an appropriate opener, as it demonstrates that the instrumentalists haven’t lost any of their heaviness (particularly when the wall of distortion pops up near the end) but have still been able to maintain some of that alt-rock style hook. The merging of these two sides continues to be a theme throughout the songs, as “No Servants” merges bursts of loud feedback with a bottom heavy groove and “Believe It” has a lead that has only gotten more infectious with each listen. And then there’s “Barrier Hammer,” which halfway in gets so heavy and dense that it might just blow out your speakers at the right volume.

Steve Brooks’ mellower singing has been a trademark of Torche’s sound from the very beginning, and he delivers another great performance on Restarter. Ever since 2008’s Meanderthal there has been a considerable amount of separation between the vocals and instrumentals on the band’s recordings, which has allowed Brooks to soar over the overwhelmingly heavy base and consistently grab your attention. I’ve always felt that his voice has had the ability to bring in listeners that might not always go for bands that are on the heavy side, as there are a lot of softer nuances mixed in with that familiar intensity and occasional shift towards the lower spectrum. This is best demonstrated on the aforementioned “Barrier Hammer” where the vocals start off at a softer range and then build into a scream right before the guitars and bass completely destroy your eardrums.

Restarter finds Torche continue to perfectly blend melodic hooks with heavy grooves, but there’s a noticeable emphasis on the heavy this time around as some of the songs near the end might be the heaviest they’ve written in quite a few year. Compared to its predecessors this album does feel a little less immediate though, and it took me a couple times through to really get sucked into the particular blend the band was going for with this one. But once I got past that initial uncertainty and started really paying attention to the nuances of Restarter I haven’t been able to stop listening to it, so it’s definitely one of those albums that’s a grower and has just enough hooks to make you want to explore more. With that being said, I also think that Torche has found that perfect balance between all of the elements they’ve displayed previously and it’s clear they’re continuing to push their sound forward beyond its boundaries.

Leave a Reply