A lot of time and energy will go into attempting to decipher just what the title of Torche’s fourth album refers to. Does it mean the band are wiping the slate clean and starting afresh? Are they heading back to their roots after what some consider (wrongly) to have been a slight misstep with Harmonicraft? Are they simply picking up where they left off back in 2012?
The band themselves claim that Restarter is an attempt to simply capture their sound as it is now, and to make an album as close to their live experience as possible. With Steve Brooks’ former band, the stoner behemoths Floor having kicked back into life recently, it is tempting to imagine that the past has influenced Torche’s songs too; although the band claim that they never want to look back.
Whatever the truth behind the title, it’s actually rather insignificant, although, if you were so inclined to dig for clues, it would be possible to find enough evidence to support any theory. What is important however, is the quality of these songs, and Torche have once again delivered an album of phenomenal quality.
Whilst Torche’s sound has its roots in stoner rock and also possesses elements of doom and sludge, what separates them from their contemporaries is their unequivocal embracing of pop-sensibilities. When they get the balance right, it is almost impossible not to be drawn in by the thunderous riffs and addictive vocal hooks of Steve Brooks. Some might argue that their previous album Harmonicraft leant too heavily on the band’s pop-influence but after the stoner masterpiece that was Meanderthal, they could hardly be blamed for exploring new directions. Restarter moves away from Harmonicraft’s obvious poptones, but still retains their nous for brevity and killer melodies whilst piling on heaps of phenomenal riffs.
Opening with Annihilation Affair, they go straight for the kill. A solid bottom end, courtesy of Jonathan Nuñez’s fuzzed-up-but-still-punchy bass tone, and as Brooks wraps his vocal melodies around the pounding riffs for just a second they sound like The God Machine in full flight (rarely has there been a better sound). Having established that things are a little different this time around, the song descends into a squall of feedback and noise, just to ram home the point.
As a statement of intent, it’s ferocious; in fact Restarter is probably the heaviest sounding album that Torche has recorded to date. Barrier Hammer for example focuses primarily on its bone crushing sound, and although Brooks’ presence ensures that there is melody to be found buried under a wave of dense, sludgey riffing. No Servants is a stripped back, half-time affair crafted from a muscular bassline and a constant scree of feedback, it’s as bleak as Torche has ever been. The title track meanwhile is an eight and a half minute masterclass in robot riffing and stretching an idea beyond the point of elasticity that has surely been designed purely to gain the slow stoner nod of approval.
This being Torche, there are some “lighter” moments. The rumbling drums and thrashed out guitars of Bishop In Arms is a compelling amphetamine fuelled charge. The slow deliberate chug of Minions develops a mighty groove for Brooks to exploit gloriously whilst Loose Man, Undone and Blasted ensure that the band’s poppier influences are pushed to the forefront. Restarter is not the sound of a band starting with a blank slate it is more akin to an artist simply darkening their palette briefly. Apparently Torche has already begun work on their follow up, which will again sound different, but presumably, the same.