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New Torche album ‘Harmonicraft’ takes us on a ride.

The new Torche album ‘Harmonicraft’ leaked on the internet this week and downloads have been fevered and numerous.  Since you have probably already heard part of all of this new Volcom release prior to the April 24th official release date…here is a review…

The first Torche release on the Volcom label was destined to be a swing for the fences.  Following 2008’s ‘Meanderthal’ and the 2010 release ‘Songs for Singles’, it seemed that this Miami juggernaut could do no wrong.  Between endless touring with acts like Valient Thorr and Corrosion of Conformity, and band members participating in other projects like the esteemed Floor and Robotic Empire act Shitstorm, Torche has been busier than a cucumber in a woman’s prison.  That said, expectations were high for their Volcom debut.

The opening track of this behemoth wastes no time displaying no flavor.  “Letting Go”, the opening track is characteristically upbeat.  Uplifting is the word that comes to mind here and it  sees drummer Rick Smith showing chops for days with this beat with the speed and precision he is known for.  Vocalist Steve Brooks is soaring high above the clouds vocally.  Melody with a side of guitar riff madness and tone envy to boot has always been Brooks’ strong suit.  Not to mention he once again has a wingman on the guitar.  The addition of Andrew Elstner to the bands guitar ranks is clearly a solid choice.  Elstner, a veteran of St. Louis rockers Tilts fits right in this paradigm.  Brooks and Elstner bring the heavy  and a one-two punch of harmony that has become a signature for this band.  This leaves the low end which is formidably provided by bassist Jonathan Nuñez.  It takes a bass pro to keep up in this band and Nuñez is certainly that and more.

The next tracks “Kicking” and “Walk It Off” are what I would call “burners”.  That is to say they hit you like a ton of bricks before you even know what to do and they are gone before you have a chance to respond.  Several listens will be required to absorb the immensity of this record.  Torche is well known for writing quick tracks…but there is nothing rudimentary or simple in their execution.  This is hard hitting, complex material.   “Kicking” flys in and blasts you in the face with a fury and then quickly explodes into a head nod classic.  Then while you are catching your breath and exalting with a smile on your face, “Walk It Off” kicks in the door and punches you in the stomach.  This rabbit punch  clocks in at a solid 1 minute 25 seconds.  But make no mistake…you don’t feel shorted or cheated.  You will get a full meal here and you will like it.

“Reverse Inverted” encompasses everything I enjoy about this genre and this band.  In both cases you get bombarded from all sides with fury and with ferocity…and then just when you think you can’t take anymore and you need a break…someone breaks out an expansive and certified body rocker.  This track is all that.  If you don’t find yourself moving somewhere on your body when this track in in full swing…promptly check yourself in to see a doctor because you might be dead.

The next track “In Pieces”  shifts down into an almost sinister tone.  Bassist Jonathan Nuñez describes this track as, “One word: Melvins.”  I would have to agree that this is a fine homage to one legendary band from another who’s star is rising.   “Snakes Are Charmed” and “Sky Trials” both start of at a frenetic pace with some furious guitar work, while the former branches off and takes you for a stroll around the grounds before dropping you squarely in the clutches of the diabolical latter.

“Roaming” does just that. This is signature Torche.  They lay out the plan, give it a once over, then again…and then drive it home with intensity that rock music so desperately craves. “Skin Moth”  flutters like it’s namesake and takes the listener on a maze of different feels.  You never get too comfortable on this one.  It just kills.

“Kiss Me Dudely”, which has to be the best and most fitting song title in the history of western music, is a solid rocker.  This is a horns up track that conjurs images of Steve Brooks hopping around the stage with that evil grin of his, with 4 or 500 people bouncing in time through the entire track.   Actually that sounds pretty good. Kudos on this one.

“Solitary Traveler” is easy to get lost in.  This is as dense as any track this band has ever put forward. As with epic tracks like “Face The Wall” or “Bring Me Home” on previous releases, this is a song that makes you stare off into the distance while thinking deeply on all the things that matter most in your life.  All while enjoying a masterfully crafted sound that has been engineered to evoke emotion and response.  Mission accomplished.

The title track “Harmonicraft” pumps to life and once again Rick Smith is working overtime to outdo himself on the drums.  When this track reaches a crescendo, the chills are running down your spine, your eyes are closed, and your head is nodding once again in approval.  This song maintains an anticipatory  intensity throughout…like you are waiting for the hammer to drop the entire song.

“Looking On” is that aforementioned hammer.  The flip side to this coin is expansive and heavy and lumbering.  It’s a solid way to close out a record that essentially is all over the place in terms of general dynamics and feel.

‘Harmonicraft’ is an achievement that cannot be overlooked.  I have watched Torche grow in terms of exposure and popularity…but also in complexity of song writing and general musical maturity.  This band is doing their own thing right now…and there are several imitators but no duplicators.  But in the studio, and on the stage, Torche is currently reigning supreme and making it look easy.  This album is a must for anyone who is a fan of heavy music…or just music in general.  I, for one, will going over and over this album like the Zapruder film over the next few weeks.  Enjoy.

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