Torche ‘Meanderthal’ CD 2008

Torche 'Meanderthal' CD 2008It would be fair to say that Torche are confusing buggers. As a reviewer it’s always nice when a band hands you some convenient reference points on a plate. How often do we see lines like “…galloping Maiden style rhythms” or “…doomy Sabbath riffs” trotted out in reviews to describe a band? It helps us do our jobs a lot more easily but Torche don’t afford us that luxury. It would seem that even their label Hydrahead struggle to sell the band, epithets such as “stoner pop” or “thunder pop” don’t really do much to either inspire confidence or describe the thirteen pummelling examples of tuneage contained here…Kyuss jamming with Girls Aloud…I don’t think so!!!

Initially we’re off to a good start as instrumental opener “Triumph of Venus” has me scribbling Mastodon in my notebook with its driving staccato drums and complex tumble of notes. It turns out the Torche guys are just teasing us before the serious business gets underway. Yes there is a stoner vibe here in the weight and tone of the riffs and some of the grooves being laid down are equal to anything Kyuss may have produced in their heyday. Yes there is a pop vibe, not the horrible cheesy pop that pollutes the charts and airwaves like a nagging cancer. This has a more considered, thoughtful and emotional pop suss that you may expect from bands such as the Foo Fighters or, dare I say it, Radiohead. It’s all here but there is so much more. Whereas a track like “Grenades” sound triumphant and majestic with its expansive open riffing and soaring melodies the next track “Piranha” blazes with a driving hardcore intensity and so it goes throughout the album, confounding expectations until we get to final track “Meanderthal”, a crawling imploding grind.

Each song here is a precision tooled gem, as fat free as Kate Moss and as direct as a Roman road. Torche don’t mess around with anything extraneous. Each riff, melody, drum beat and guitar break is designed for maximum effect and each idea has been honed to its core values. Each track is a short, sharp poke in the eye never sacrificing the quality of the riff for quantity.

Kurt Ballou’s production is an impressive addition to an already weighty CV. The drums hit you in the guts and the guitars buzz and grind with a treacle rich tone that will set the benchmark for future bands to aspire to. I can picture a thousand guitar geeks turning up to Torche gigs armed with notebooks to jot down gear and tone settings…I might be there myself!!! The layered vocals of Steve Brooks fly high with an epic intensity that lifts this album beyond the heavy to a level of beauty that many rock bands can only dream of.

I will admit I didn’t find this album to be an immediate hit. It took a few listens to become accustomed to the style and for the melodies to start implanting themselves in my subconscious but as with anything that requires a little thought and the investment of time, the rewards here are truly magnificent. It’s not often an album can be described as ground breaking but I think it’s fair to use the term comfortably here and it’s safe to say that, come the end of the year when the magazines do their usual “best of” polls, this album will, or certainly should, feature highly across the board. A magnificent and quite possibly important album. Let’s sit back and watch out for the flood of weak copyists!!!

Label: Hydra Head Records

Scribed by: Ollie Stygall