In recent years, very few bands have been able to prevail over my increasingly jaded and negative outlook on music and life itself. One of those bands is Miami natives Torche, who won me over with their unique combination of melodic sense and gut-pummeling heaviness. I was impressed by 2008’s Meanderthal, but the true watershed moment 2012’s Harmonicraft, a damn-near perfect record in my eyes. To say I was looking forward to the bands’ new record, Restarter, would be an understatement.
The album kicks off unassumingly enough with “Annihilation Affair,” more of a downtuned slow-motion chug than an actual song. This theme will continue throughout Restarter, which feels a little heavier on the sludge side of things this time around. “No Servants” and “Barrier Hammer” fit that description as well, avoiding melody or songcraft in favor of complete sonic devastation.
As the album drags on, I find myself waiting for something to happen. As heavy as some of these tracks are, they offer little payoff. Torche‘s secret weapon has always been fun, hook-filled uptempo songs, and there’s precious few of those on Restarter. You’ve got the surf-flavored “Bishop In Arms,” as well as the soothing melodies of “Blasted” and, ahem, “Loose Men.” Tracks like this always remind me of summer, and in my head I picture a ridiculous 1980’s-style beach party, like the volleyball scene from Top Gun. Maybe I should’ve kept that to myself, but the point is, THAT is what makes Torche great. Harmonicraft had about 10 songs like that, and was fucking AWESOME. Restarter has three, and is just…OK.
The lack of direction is best exemplified by the title track, which closes the album by playing the same riff for 8 FUCKING MINUTES (sole lyric: “Our leaders are done with conversations.” No shit.) If it was any other metal band, I would not be surprised or disappointed by the lack of memorable music. But Torche has set the bar extremely high with their last two records, and frankly, I expect better from them.
Also, fuck whoever mastered this record. I’m not much of an audiophile, but something seemed wrong to me, so I had my AMG posse look into it. Sure enough, this album ranks a mere DR3 on the dynamic range scale — one of the worst scores AMG.com has ever seen. Over-compression is obnoxious enough in its usual habitat of tech death and commercial-grade thrash records, but somehow it’s even worse when applied to a band of such sonic girth as Torche. I briefly considered writing 600 words about my bowel movements instead of having to listen to this record anymore. (If you want to hear more bitching about dynamic range and crappy mastering, click here.)
I’m sure this album will receive glowing reviews at every website on earth other than this one, and maybe they’re right. But to me, the heavier parts of Restarter could be literally any band on Relapse Records, and that defeats the whole purpose of having Torche around. (Incidentally, Torche is ON Relapse Records now). There are still some bright spots here, don’t get me wrong — I just wish there were more of them.