After releasing the Songs for Singles EP in 2010, Miami trio Torche has released the full-length follow up to their 2008 breakout album Meanderthal. Perhaps oddly released on the Volcom Entertainment label, Harmonicraft is a self-produced affair with some help from mix master Kurt Ballou of Converge.
Described by former governor of Arkansas Mike Huckabee as having “more hooks than a pirate convention” and heavier than “something really heavy, like a tractor or something” (really, you owe it to yourself to watch this video if you haven’t already), Torche is indeed a delightful oddball in the metal world. Their guitars are thick and sludgy, their drums are huge, but they have a melodic sensibility that never gets paired with such a sound. Guitarist and vocalist Steve Brooks has a voice that could easily find its way onto a an Electric Wizard record, but he sings like he was just listening to a Foo Fighters record. The guitar riffs, too, are often written with a mind for melody. Call it “pop metal” or “stoner pop,” either way, Torche has their own thing going on – no need to change the formula on Harmonicraft.
While none of the tracks have as memorable of a hook as “Healer” or as satisfying of a climax point as “Across the Shields” from Meanderthal, fans should be more than satisfied with another batch of solid songs with a very well-defined sound.
These guys love an energetic start and again deliver a trio of high-octane, massively catchy tunes. “Letting Go” and “Kicking” are both outrageously poppy – but Torche knows to throw in some thick, down-tuned guitar chugs in there for good measure – while “Walk It Off” is a quick burst of aggression before the band gets into more of a relaxed groove on the following tracks. The generally positive disposition of this band is always refreshing. It’s not every day you hear a band that induces both headbangs and grins.
As usually, the explosive shorter numbers are peppered throughout slightly longer tracks. The band stretches out on the would-be stadium anthem “Snakes Are Charmed” and the appropriately titled “Roaming,” but stick the blisteringly fast “Sky Trials” in between to keep the listener’s ears perked.
The band broadens its horizons a bit as well. “Solitary Traveler” sounds like Torche’s take on Jesu and is an unexpected highlight on the back end. And while the title track to Meanderthal was just a massive pile of sludge to shut the album down, “Harmonicraft” serves as a fast-paced penultimate track with syncopated riffs and a subtle dancy feel to it. Unfortunately closing track looking on doesn’t satisfy half as much as Songs for Singles‘ “Out Again.”
So while it doesn’t match the greatness of Meanderthal (to be fair that’s a hard feat to achieve again), Harmonicraft finds success not just by being sonically peerless, but also because Torche knows how to take advantage of it. It is well-produced, well-paced and enjoyable. Next time, hopefully, we’ll see if they can really evolve.
Torche – Harmonicraft tracklist:
- “Letting Go”
- “Walk It Off”
- “Reverse Inverted”
- “In Pieces”
- “Snakes Are Charmed”
- “Sky Trials”
- “Skin Moth”
- “Kiss Me Dudely”
- “Solitary Traveler”
- “Looking On”