By Kieran Graulich
As metal slowly creeps its way into indie, musicians are now doing with metal what they had previously done with rap when it became prominent in that genre – experimentation, nostalgia revivalism, and writing their music with wider pop appeal. At the forefront of the new metal movement, Torche has already established and conquered their niche. On their last album, 2012’s “Harmonicraft,” Torche started to play more with brighter sounds and catchier melodies, harking back to pop rock crossover greats, like the Foo Fighters and Dinosaur Jr.
However, it’s now 2015 and the band has come back with their fourth full-length studio album, “Restarter,” and it sounds like exactly what its title suggests: a restart. On “Restarter,” the band goes back to their sludge and doom metal roots, and then amplifies them by a hundred. The product on “Restarter” is crushing, monstrous, and bulky; yet, for the most part, Torche doesn’t lose themselves a bit in the new noise.
Right from the start, on the opening track “Annihilation Affair,” Torche takes no prisoners: the uber distorted guitars, the pounding drum beats, and mind-melting leads and vocals all foreshadow what comes to be Torche’s heaviest and thickest album yet. The guitar tones are absolutely heavenly; their sound is so thick that it seems to consume and envelope whatever sound is not occupied by the already meaty drums or vocals. In this sense, “Restarter” is a very full sounding album, yet not too harsh on the ears. This formula works best on some of the more adrenaline filled songs like “Loose Men.” The absolute highlight of this soundscape comes at the end of the album’s finale and title track, where the sound builds and builds, layering upon itself until it all seems to come to one paradoxical maddening calm. Mixed with the crushing doom metal structure of their music, Torche creates an extremely intense atmosphere while managing to not lose their trademark pop appeal.
Although the sound is still there, it’s the songs themselves that end up holding the album back. Throughout “Restarter,” Torche manages to maintain their sound and integrate it well with added in elements, but the songwriting gets pushed off to the side. As a result, several songs, such as “Undone,” “Blasted,” and “Believe It” create lulls in the flow and ebb of the album. Although they sound nice on the surface, there is little in lyrical or songwriting quality that makes it actually stand out. It doesn’t ruin the album, but it does make “Restarter” a spottier album the more you dive into it. Unless you are a diehard sludge or doom fan, “Restarter” is not likely to hold your attention for its entire duration.
Certainly not a failed experiment, “Restarter” is a brave and admirably authentic venture into Torche’s sound, exploring the roots and depths of their genre. As far as musical change ups go, perhaps we can take solace in the fact that Torche decided to press the restart button.
Kieran Graulich is a staff writer. Email him at email@example.com