To say an album rocks is almost always a resounding and succinct form of praise. And Torchlight Parade’s self-titled debut certainly -does- rock. The problem is that’s more or less all it does.
The band is certainly very clear and unabashed about what they’re here to do. This is hard rocking classic metal through and through, with a lot of what you’d expect from such a formula. Rough and ready riffs, wailing vocals in the same vein as Blackie Lawless, gang-chants a-plenty in the choruses.
But a few songs in, and that formula is rapidly starting to go stale. Something’s missing from the mix, something doesn’t quite click. It could be the production, which lacks a certain weight, plodding and tip-tapping when it should roar and stomp. It could be the vocals, which are energetic but sound out of place without much to back them up. It could just be the fact that most of the tracks on here set out to do the exact same thing, and though some like “Golgotha” and “Salvation” do it better than others, this just leaves the remaining songs out in the cold. “Red White and Blue”, while one of the more meaty tracks on the album, is everything you expect it to be from the title, the quintessential all-American rocker. Harmonica, firework sounds, furious guitar solos that call Joe Satriani or Lynyrd Skynyrd to mind, Star-Spangled riffing, and of course a big chant of “Red! White! Blue!”, just to really hammer it home.
There’s also an odd contrast between certain aspects of the band. On the one hand, they present themselves with a deliberately dark aesthetic, with plenty of morbid touches in their presentation and a biography that tells a tale of a band formed “in the halls of a local funeral parlor”. But musically, everything about the band screams classic hard rock. This isn’t to say a band has to be one-dimensional of course, a mix of different influences and styles can work wonders. Not every band that works with morbid themes needs to sound the same. But here it feels disconnected: if the listener doesn’t see the band’s images or read their bio, there’s honestly nothing in the music that speaks to that funereal touch they’re apparently going for.
Despite the issues here, Torchlight Parade certainly isn’t a bad album. It’s pleasant enough, even if it never really ascends to the lofty heights of rock and roll it wants to. But if they could focus in on their whole “funeral parlor” image, become the band their biography describes them as, then they could have something special.