Written by: PP on 12/02/2015 23:21:22

If you think breakdowns are necessary to sound heavy, you're in for an ear-shattering surprise on "Restarter", the fourth album by stoner metallers Torche. Its opening track "Annihilation Affair" is exactly what its title suggests; bruising, muscular riffs that vibrate through your entire body in an earthquake-like manner. It leaves you shaking from its brute force and your eardrums forcibly torn into pieces from the down-tuned, pulsating heaviness this track brings as an opening message designed to establish Torche mean business. I played it to my colleague unaccustomed to rock music; she simply referred to it as soul crushing. She's right. On previous album and critically acclaimed masterpiece "Harmonicraft", the band's soundscape was playfully dubbed as pop-stoner for its inclusion of distinct pop elements within a punishingly heavy sound. "Kicking", for instance, was upbeat and almost cheerful in its catchy repetitions of its title, paving the way for Torche's breakthrough internationally and into the mainstream.

In that sense, "Restarter"'s opener feels like a knee-jerk reaction to the pop notions, serving as a reminder that Torche are essentially a metal band utilizing stoner and sludge elements as the primary ingredient in their expression, despite also toying with pop ideas. This is a common theme throughout the record, where the band decisively and purposefully seek to perfect the balance between punishing, bass-driven, heavily down-tuned barrages of riffs and the pop elements found especially in the vocal department, but also in melodic guitar leads on occasion. A good example of the former is "Barrier Hammer", which relentlessly delivers rhythmic pulsations of bass in waves upon waves of gloomy heaviness throughout its course. Yet as its polar opposite we find contrast in the upbeat and happy tunes like "Bishop In Arms", or particularly, the best Torche track to date, "Loose Men". If you thought "Kicking" was catchy, you haven't yet heard Torche embrace the melodic realm of their soundscape fully. Here, they overload on the dreamy vocal melodies while supplementing with infectiously catchy guitars and simple, but driving grooves that should penetrate right through the mainstream through their cross-genre appeal.

This is something Torche do even better on "Restarter" than they did on "Harmonicraft", which was, despite all its critical acclaim and fan credit, still a muddy and sludgy album that spearheaded the stoner rock revitalization movement without convincing the larger audience to partake. Many songs now follow a very simplistic structure: brooding, earth-shatteringly heavy drone music that always remembers to embed a few distinct melodies within. The tracks are convincingly heavy while also being catchy in the process. Sounds simple on paper, but immensely difficult to put into practice successfully.

Yet Torche have done just that. To give another example, "Minions" is arguably another genre-defining masterpiece, which will surely draw in the crowds through its catchy allure of sense and order amongst plenty of dissonance and screechy distortion. It's simple, but god damn effective. But the other extreme persists as well. In fact, "Restarter" culminates on its title track, an eight-minute mammoth that closes the album in lengthy instrumental stoner worship after revisiting some of the catchiest themes found on the album as a whole. It's a truly epic track that lays to rest one of the heaviest albums in recorded music history - a statement that is not aired lightly by the undersigned. And it achieves this without necessarily even qualifying as a metal album per se. You might break your stereo with this one, but it'll be worth it. Torche have repeated the feat and release another album that will find itself among the candidates for album of the year 2015.


Download: Loose Men, Bishop In Arms, Minions, Restarter
For the fans of: Baroness, Kyuss, Mastodon
Listen: Facebook

Release date 24.02.2015
Relapse Records

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