For Floridian doom-metal heroes Torche, Restarter feels kind of like a homecoming. I say “kind of,” mind you, because this isn’t really a step backwards as much as it is an integration of the band’s earlier, heavier sounds with the poppier experiment that was 2012’s Harmonicraft.
At the same time, though, the album feels very much akin to Meanderthal, the album that really made the band’s name in the alterna-metal realm. That, like this, was very much a “melded” album, one that blurred the lines between fist-pumping spacerock and crunching, crushing doom.
And like that album, Torche’s latest release also happens to be fucking brilliant. What’s always been interesting to me about the band is that they’re not really all that interested in pounding you down to the floor; that happens, sure, but it’s not their main focus. Rather, it seems like what they’re aiming for is to get you almost into a hypnotic state, drilling the sound so deep down into your subconscious mind that you don’t even realize it’s happening.
Take opening track “Annihilation Affair,” for one; it’s surging, churning metal that dwells somewhere between the melodic, thoughtful, yell-along roar of Baroness and the relentless, doom-y sludge of ISIS, and it’s great for all that, but at the same time, it’s almost like a mantra being repeated over and over as the sound swells and crashes, swells and crashes, over and over again.
Then it slowly collapses in upon itself as it moves on, until it’s nothing but a morass of tribal rhythms, echoey feedback, and sheer white noise. It’s flat-out mesmerizing, and it makes the whole thing feel several big steps removed from any of Torche’s contemporaries. (And is it cool as fuck that the band’s created an old-school, side-scroller video game based around the song? Yes; yes, it is.)
“Believe It” follows a similar track, stomping and menacing and drone-heavy, and then the closing title track nails Restarter shut, coming off like a drone-y, spaced-out chunk of New Wave run through Sunn O)))’s rig.
There’re hints of the same sound elsewhere, but there’s plenty of other stuff showing through, too. “Bishop In Arms” is a standout here, a speeding, driving, subtly melodic track that’s reminiscent of MonstrO more than it is anything else, and the slower, deliberate-sounding “Minions” is kin to that, as well. It’s sludgy but never messy, not really — even at its most massive, the beast never fully slips free of its chains, anchored down by the rock-solid rhythms.
Mid-album track “Loose Men” is an oddball, but holy hell yes, am I glad it’s there. It’s not truly “metal,” not really, at least not by this decade’s definition of the genre; instead, it’s a badass, fiery, edge-of-exploding slab of hard-driving melodic rock with guitars that Priestess would be proud as hell to call their own.
Honestly, if you made me choose only one song off of Restarter to be able to listen to ever again, this would be it, even though it doesn’t fit the mold of the rest of the disc.
“Undone” and “No Servants” and prog-influenced and more technical, with the former almost coming off like industrial-metal (think Prong) and the latter again demonstrating an intriguing hint of a New Wave influence in terms of structure. Then there’s “Blasted,” which lives up to its title as a full-on blast of raw, crunching metal, and the also-aptly-named “Barrier Hammer,” all crushing and malevolent, with amps that sound like they’ve literally been lit on fire.
I also have to note that unlike a lot of their contemporaries, Torche aren’t as compelled to drag each track out to the furthest point imaginable (except on album-ender “Restarter,” where it actually makes sense). Instead, they get in, hit you hard and fast and repeatedly, and then they vanish into the night as quickly as they came, leaving you wondering what the hell just hit you and wanting to be hit with it all over again.
(Feature photo by Janette Valentine.)