Torche are back again with their first album in a little over 4 years! The band has pioneered this unique blend of sludge/doom metal and major keys, harmony, and hooks. And while there have been several great releases so far this year in a similar happy-meets-metal vein, my anticipation for this Torche release could not be assuaged. This album also comes after a lineup shift. Lead guitarist Andrew Elstner was asked to leave the band (side note: he formed this amazing band Dead Now), and bassist Jonathan Nuñez took on lead guitar duties. To round things out, Eric Hernandez of Wrong (last link, I swear) filled the void on bass. With all these changes, how does Admission stack up against Torche’s innovative back catalogue?
The album starts off really strong with opener “From Here”. This song lasts less than 2 minutes, but Torche, as usual, makes great use of short time. The band keeps the energy up with “Slide”, one of the best tracks on the album, which was written by newcomer Hernandez. The mix of bombastic rhythm guitars and blissful leads is classic Torche, as are the earworm chorus harmonies. The excellent guitar solo and drummer Rick Smith’s outro fills really drive the song home.
Torche successfully adds in some shoegazey elements to their sound in the title track. These elements are also present in “Changes Come” and in the second half of “Reminder”, but “Admission” is on another level. This is the sad song of the summer, with frontman Steve Brooks’ mournful lyrics about love lost. You can really get lost in the guitars on this one, as Nuñez and Brooks sail you through an ocean of tone. There’s also a bit of an 80’s vibe with the galloping drum beat. This song, along with similar moments on the album, works really well – I would be stoked to see Torche go shoegaze.
Unfortunately, the album loses steam in the second half. This part of the album could have benefited from more uptempo tracks, as everything after the title track falls on the slower side tempo-wise. “Reminder” builds nicely, but most of the tracks after that don’t really go anywhere. “On the Wire” and “Extremes of Consciousness” contain some great ideas, but don’t feel fully developed. The only flub prior to the title track is “Times Missing”. The verses and buildup in the bridge are great, but the transition to the choruses are really tedious. The verse vocal melody is a lot stronger than the chorus one. Also, it feels like the song should have ended after the bridge, as the final chorus takes you out of the atmosphere that was built up.
Frontman Steve Brooks stays in the lower end of his vocal range pretty much the entire album. This works for a handful of the songs on here, but gets a little tiring, especially paired with some of the slower paced moments in the second half. Previous Torche albums saw Brooks reach for higher notes, and a more liberal use of vocal harmony. “Changes Come” sounds fantastic instrumentally, but could use a bit more dimension in the vocals to really bring things home. On “Infierno”, the band plays in their signature “bomb tuning”, but the vocals lack the intensity of previous Torche songs in this tuning.
I get that I can’t expect Torche to keep putting out records like Harmonicraft and Meanderthal, but I think it’s fair to want a bit more consistency. Regardless, there are still some fantastic songs on this album, and I’m glad Torche are back. On Admission‘s strongest songs, Torche shows that they are still a unique force to be reckoned with.
Best Tracks: Admission, Slide, From Here, Reminder, What Was
Weakest Tracks: Infierno, Times Missing
Overall Score: B-