Torche Torche

[Robotic Empire; 2005]

Rating: 3.5/5

Styles: stoner pop
Others: Queens of the Stone Age, Floor, Beach Boys meets The Melvins

Having toured with the likes of Coliseum, Daughters, The Sword, and Mogwai, sternum-crushingly heavy Miami, FL 4-piece Torche have carved out a unique place for themselves with their unique mixture of thick-as-fudge riffage and soaring, anthemic melodies. In doing so, the group has managed to not only straddle the lines between the hardcore, metal, and indie worlds, but perhaps bridge the gaps as well.

Formed from the ashes of singer/guitarist Steve Brooks and lead guitarist Juan Montoya's previous group Floor (who similarly combined poppy melodies and metal riffs into a potent blend), Torche's self-titled debut may surprise listeners with just how fully formed and focused it is. While the most obvious point of comparison would probably be Queens of the Stone Age, where QOTSA tend to meander and get a little too wrapped in studio tricks for their own good, Torche are as concise as humanly possible; never does the group leave a single loose string untied.

Although the group occasionally dips a little too deeply into what might be described as Foo Fighters-lite on songs like "Erase" and "Fire," and their attempts at artiness aren't usually successful ”” see the blessed out interlude "Fuck Addict" (the chorus is a keeper, though) and the 9-minute closing track as examples ”” I found that Torche were at their most potent when they were laying down the bong-rattling riffs while slowly stitching their simple but effective melodies to the lining of your cerebellum.

The first three tracks are essential: the sublimely sludgy "Charge of the Brown Recluse" (check out that truly 'brown' note in the main riff!), the manic drumming of "Safe," and my personal favorite cut from the album: "Mentor."

That main ascending riff is so catchy you can't help but absorb the song's molasses-slow rhythm (and that guitar solo right before the last chorus is inhumanly righteous) into your body while the lyrics””a not-so oblique ode to the joys of S&M””simply beg to be scrawled above some seedy rest stop bathroom in the middle of Oklahoma: "This little piggy likes electrocution/ burn my lips with your sweet transfusion/ I will be your mentor."

"Vampyro" and "Rockit" are also excellent songs, illustrating Torche's uncanny knack for melding ferocious blasts of metal with a pop sensibility for which most mainstream acts would trade half of their iTunes store royalties.

While one of the more popular trends in the experimental metal community seems to be reveling in 20-minute songs that build up to garish climaxes (a style pioneered by groups like Neurosis, Pelican, and Isis and perpetuated by what my friend described as 'Neur-is-ican' groups like Rosetta, Conifer, and Belegost), the fact that Torche are making what is essentially experimental metal music without resorting to this tactic is worthy of kudos alone. But one listen to the precision with which the group enacts their destruction and it's plain to see why Torche has been a band on everyone's lips these days. Oh, and live? They're another beast entirely!

1. Charge of the Brown Recluse
2. Safe
3. Mentor
4. Erase
5. Fuck Addict
6. Vampyro
7. Rockit
8. Fire
9. Holy Roar
10. The Last Word