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Torche - Meanderthal

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Artist: Torche

Album: Meanderthal

Label: Hydrahead

Review date: Apr. 21, 2008

Torche’s self-titled LP was one of the catchiest records of 2005, but those hooks caused as much consternation as pleasure. While I enjoyed the jams from these Floor alums, especially tracks like “Vampyro” and “Charge of the Brown Recluse,” it seemed like their hooky aspirations weren’t always well integrated with the weight of their sludge and doom roots.

On this splendidly titled full-length, it all seems to come together. With more complicated and ambitious tunes, and considerably tighter playing, the chugging down-tuned riffs and sunny melodies blend together, here mixed with more detail and variety than ever before. The vast majority of these tunes (on a tight 36-minute record) demonstrate either greater proficiency or more confidence. The result is a wider harmonic palette and a deeper variety in tempos (on top of more syncopation), delivering the goods after a promising but inconsistent first record.

Just check out the opening salvo of “Triumph of Venus,” sort of like “Bombastic Intro” on Big Black’s Songs About Fucking crossed with the techo-sludge of the great Kylesa. It’s hard not to get into the whiplash and propulsion of coiling tunes like “Little Champion” or “Without a Sound.” Elsewhere, “Piraña” and “Sandstorm” are space rock anthems, the kind of thing that bands like Cave In sought to do but never pulled off convincingly. And hard charging tunes like “Healer” are exactly what Queens of the Stone Age wanted to be. They manage to touch these bases without compromising the monolithic weight of their sound (especially leader Steve Brook’s jerry-rigged “bomb string” guitar). The sun-baked “Across the Shields” and “Fat Waves” feel like a consolidation and perfection of what they were after on the first record (shimmering, echoe-drenched guitars riding atop thick, purposeful riffs). And the space crunch of the closing title track reminds me somehow of Jesu, if Justin Broadrick were a mean, not melancholy stoner. My favorite “pop” record of the year so far.

By Jason Bivins

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