One of the more innovative metal bands of the present day, Torche, has joined bands like Harvey Milk, Fucked Up and Screaming Females in looking for new wrinkles on hard rock. Meanderthal, the band’s 2008 album, broke so many metal conventions that it’s no wonder that Torche has yet to receive full appreciation in the metal community.
With short songs, major tempos, lyrics more angelic than Satanic, and a sense of humor more cerebral than grotesque, Meanderthal still sounds pretty much unlike anything else in metal, which made a follow-up so crucial to the few who eventually heard and appreciated it. Songs for Singles is something of an appropriate turn for Torche, a classic “don’t label us metal” metal band: With eight songs at 21 minutes, it’d probably qualify as the shortest sludge-metal album ever.
The title Songs for Singles is something of a wry joke, as the six-minute brooding closer “Out Again” and 52-second “Lay Low” don’t stick to anything close to ringtone- and radio-friendly song structure (especially for a genre so entrenched and fascistic as metal). But the melodic innovations that made Meanderthal are all present, and they’re combined with more compact, rhythmic experimentations and the kind of abridged but inspired songwriting that sounds something like a classic Minutemen EP but with heavily distorted power chords, riffs, and echoes.
Songs for Singles sees the Miami band continuing to experiment with upbeat, accessible metal songs, and while not fully pop yet, the addition of a more advanced rhythm section helps offset their perpetual need to drone their guitars out. The album inches the band further to reaching a goal of good pop metal that, while seemingly impossible in 2010, is a fight worth fighting.
This fall Torche has been opening for High on Fire, the current kings of stoner rock. Even if it wins over just a handful of metal hardliners, it’s a start.