Reviewed: July 2019
Released 2019 Relapse Records
Reviewer: Peter Atkinson
If big, brash, ballsy riffs are your thing – as I assume they would be if you’ve found your way here – then Miami’s Torche is a dream come true. The band’s fifth album, Admission, is a veritable cavalcade of cascading guitar, a wondrous wall of riffage that so many bands boast about or promise, but rarely deliver – at least in the sheer volume, meaning both quantity and decibel level, that Torche offers here.
The quartet capture both the majesty and might of, say High On Fire, but bring it with more urgency and verve, swapping the stonery/occultic overtones and progressive sprawl for a hardcore/post-rock/metal punch in the face. That’s not to say there’s anything demonstrably “core” about the album, it’s just got that kind of intensity and heft, a la Helmet in their prime. And as such, it’s pretty goddamn awesome.
The band come out swinging with the bruising two-minute opener “From Here” as if to show they really mean business, but soon settle into a nice ebb and flow that manages to offer both plenty of bluster and diverging moods so Admission isn’t one 40-minute wall of noise. “Submission” follows with a combination of catchy, though monumental, hooks and a frisky, disco-like beat from drummer Rick Smith. The heaving, sludgy riffs of “Slide” echo vintage Black Sabbath, though with a perkier gait.
“What Was” circles back to the opener with its terse and tight dynamics before the band flip the switch and go full shoe-gaze with “Times Missing” that manages to avoid sounding too dreary thanks to guitarist Steve Brooks’ disarming vocals. His delivery and tone are remarkably even-keeled, maintaining largely the same tenor on the buoyant, pop-tinged title track as on the more forlorn “Times Missing,” the Nirvana-like rabble of “Extremes of Consciousness” or the quaking, bowel-loosening doominess of “On The Wire,” “Infierno” and “Reminder” – all of which helps “center” the band’s overall sound.
Not sure just how longtime bassist/producer Jonathan Nuñez’s switch to guitar – following the 2016 departure of Andrew Elster, who was replaced by Wrong bassist Eric Hernandez – played into things here. But everything about Admission is heavier and more thunderous than 2015’s already heavy and thunderous Restarter, as if – with his bassist’s mentality – more bottom end and heft was applied across the board as compensation. Or maybe that’s just me conspiracy theorizing. Whatever. It’s by no means a complaint.
“Changes Come” brings the album to a rather understated, even ethereal end – albeit it with plenty of feedback – that is a bit of a surprise. But it’s a welcome subtle touch. The muscularity is tempered, as the music channels the chill of Brooks’ voice, and Torche ease their way to the finish line after delivering what is one of the most gloriously bombastic albums of the year.