Veteran metal quartet Torche understand that you can’t continue to release the same record. And so Restarter was born. It’s the band’s heaviest album to date, a step back toward their early days of Melvins worship and melodic sludge. It’s not a retread, but rather a band returning to its roots after a decade of playing and experimenting together. This isn’t Meanderthal, and it isn’t a Floor record; nor is it bound by the rigid pop song structures of Harmonicraft. Torche sprinkle a little bit of everything throughout the career-spanning Restarter.
Opener “Annihilation Affair” kicks off with a doom riff that syncopates hypnotically, sputtering for the occasional drum breakdown. Jonathan Nuñez’s bass tone is immediately striking, fuzzed and tuned down — the key ingredient in Torche’s quaking sound — but with more presence than ever before. (Without a subwoofer or good speakers, you’re not hearing the full power of this band.) Steve Brooks’ soaring vocals remain intact, cutting clear and cleanly through a mix of massive tones. He restrains his melodic phrasing on Restarter, holding notes longer and often stepping back from the mic to let instrumental sections unfold of their own accord. The crushing plod of “Barrier Hammer” and the spiraling psych freak-outs of “Annihilation Affair” and the eight-and-a-half-minute title track just wouldn’t have the same effect with vocals cluttering the mix. It’s one of many tactful decisions made by a seasoned band.
Most impressively, Torche retain the optimistic “feel-good metal” mood of their music even though, melodically, these are the least compromising songs they’ve ever written. Restarter has an unwavering groove. What it lacks in immediacy it makes up for in lasting appeal. It also establishes Torche as one of the most consistent, openhearted acts in metal. They can woo you with a pop song, crush you with the low strings, or do both at the same time. Few others can make that claim.
Essential Tracks: “Annihilation Affair”, “Restarter”