huge thanks to David Raposa, Scott Plagenhoef, and the entire Pitchfork staff!
After establishing themselves as fine purveyors of metallic sludge over the course of an album and an EP, Torche's second full-length, Meanderthal, refines their penchant for volume and proves that there's more in their bag of tricks than Melvins-like metal. The record kicks off at a breakneck pace with a half-dozen tar-thick tracks. The fleet-fingered math of "Triumph of Venus" gives way to the triumphant bombast of "Grenades", a track that's barely finished before "Pirhaña"'s stop/start stomp kicks into gear. Through these six songs-- including "Sandstorm", "Speed of the Nail", and "Healer"-- nothing necessarily feels out of the ordinary when compared to what Torche have done in the past.
The hard left turn -- and perhaps the breaking point with "true" metal dudes-- comes with "Across the Shields", a tune that could find a nice home on modern rock radio. Musically, the group finds a comfortable middle ground between their speed trials and more turgid pace, allowing Steve Brooks' militant holler-- usually more reminiscent of Helmet's Page Hamilton -- to take on a melodic bent that could bring to mind anyone from Dave Grohl to Jawbox's J. Robbins. There's even an honest-to-goodness hook: "I am your armor," Brooks sings as the guitars descend. The moment stands out due to producer (and Converge guitarist) Kurt Ballou; the crisp sheen he lends to Torche's sound makes everything stand out and shimmer.
Torche follow that breakthrough with a second half that contains a quick and clean 30-second instrumental ("Little Champion"), more catchy hit-and-run slabs ("Sundown", "Without a Sound"), and a thunderous one-two punch ("Amnesian", "Meanderthal") to finish an album that shows Torche spreading their wings and exploring new territory while still creating their heaviest music yet. It's a fitting send-off to an absolutely killer rock record -- one that's likely to appeal to listeners into any stripe of heavy music from the past 20 years.