Saturday, April 28, 2012
Album Review: Torche – Harmonicraft
Compare it to their previous releases’ similarly cartoon-esque but most definitely bleaker pictures and you’re seeing images that clearly represent the band’s shift in musical styles. It’s true. Listen carefully to the sludge-infected monstrosity of their eponymous debut album and its much acclaimed follow-up, Meanderthal, which earned the band their “stoner/doom pop” label, and you can hear exactly how they came to arrive at this point and with that artwork.
I’m not going to beat around the bush any further. Harmonicraft is their cleanest, most melodic album to date and it’s release will continue to divide stoner, prog and post-metal fans in the way that Torche have always sought to do. They begin as they mean to continue, with 2 and 3-minute walled sections of rumbling bass that jimmy along cyclical riffs fired through distorted guitars. The band’s sparkle and main selling point here is that from somewhere amidst it’s hammering crush is the echoing, clean vocal of Steve Brooks. In an even purer form than heard previously, Brooks is your upbeat guide through the heaviosity, firing out his minimalistic lyrics, serenading his audience through the thick and the thin. Be it via the medium of punk rock for “Walk It Off” and “Kiss Me Dudely”, the grunge-soaked swagger of “Reverse Inverted” and “Letting Go”, or the chugging rock n’ roll pound of “In Pieces” and “Skin Moth”.
The songs are still trench-deep and busy enough to make your ears pop when they throw in a sudden shift in depth. It’s the yank-up into the guitar arpeggios and neck-snapping drive of “Snakes Are Charmed” you need to watch out for. It’s one of those moments where you know a band has nailed down something truly special. The hairs are standing up on the back of my neck now just thinking about it. They almost repeat the trick with the slow, neck-snapping groove of “Roaming” and the catchy-as-fuck rotating riff of the title-track – I reckon this is what being trapped inside Torche’s own washing machine is like, going round and round with those soiled tour threads.
With its track-by-track homage to looped riffery, Harmonicraft is, undoubtedly, a mood album. You flick it on, it invigorates you for 38 minutes, and then you move along. It’s not something you can easily dip in and out of. Each track feeds beautifully on to the next as subtle shifts in rhythm mean you simply roll with every single one of its punches. The down side of course is that they will face rows of pointing fingers who don’t buy into such a concept. For instance, there are several moments where the song demands more from the band than they’re willing to give. It’s not the first time we’ve heard them proffering only one and a half minute tracks and it’s hard not to feel aggrieved when a track you dig crashes to a halt with a sense of incompletion; the wish left unfulfilled. Would it work if you stitched all the tracks together by a series of chord hangs? I doubt it. Done this way, it can leave you with the vague impression that you’re being pitched too. The nay-sayers will be suggesting that if they really are an ideas factory, then why do so many of their imaginings sound similar? Ah, the trappings of being so clever, so innovative and so skilled are that your public will always question your motifs and demand more of you.
So, sure, at first glance it may seem that Torche are driving towards melding churning pop and gutsy groove together à la Queens Of The Stone Age, yet deeper inspection shows they have also begun to loop back in on themselves. There are songs here that brush-up against the kind of moods that Mastodon’s current work is offering and given the frowning, doomier finale that lurks in “Solitary Traveler” and “Looking On” (think Pilgrim meets High On Fire), we can see they are still keeping all their options open. End of the day, whatever their critics may say, Harmonicraft is a genre-bending original and I’d recommend it any day of the week. Without bands like Torche showing innovation like this, there’d be an awful lot of uninspired and uninspiring music out there.
Also online @ The NewReview