From metalcore to technical death metal, these are albums I truly think stand out above the rest. Albums that I listen to on a regular basis because they’re original, executed well or even both. They may not be front-to-back perfect and they may not be for everyone, and perhaps many of you will find that you disagree. Nevertheless, these are albums I think people should at least give a listen.

Week 4 brings me to the other end of the metal spectrum with Torche, a 3- pieced stoner/sludge metal band with an unprecedented sound. “Oh, Gein, what could be so unique about them?” you ask. Well, this is not a band that sounds like most sludge metal. In fact, I’m not a big fan of sludge metal at all and I think Meanderthal is a marvelous album. And it’s all because of the mood.

The mood Torche evokes is a mixture of dark and light without actually sounding too dark. There are 2 ways they accomplish this. The first being that while the fat, sludgy riffs add a dissonant and naturally darker atmosphere, the brighter the underlying melodies, the brighter the actual song is. It’s a contrast that works extremely well for them. The second is the vocals. Steve Brooks is a talented vocalist whose forte lies within his light, pleasant singing voice. So even if the song itself is just an upbeat sludgefest (“Speed of the Nail”) his voice inherently contrasts with the music, always maintaining the album’s “fluffy” (for lack of better word) sound. Problematic for some perhaps, but not me. If I didn’t want the blissful sound blaring through my headphones, I wouldn’t be listening to Torche in the first place. It’s good to see this is maintained all throughout Meanderthal because a lot of bands like to disregard a working formula.

Musically, the cohesion and consistency is wonderful. Everything comes together the way it should and the end result is nothing short of creative and original. The showcasing here is next to none so do not expect to hear a plethora of guitar noodling and mech-like drumming. It is very simplistic from a technical standpoint. Yet, at the same time, Torche manage to make something that is also complex. There are many layers here, adding to the album’s already beefy production. When I said unprecedented, I really meant it. There are a wide variety of influences (punk, doom, drone) but what comes out of your speakers is something that you won’t find anywhere else.

It goes without saying that Meanderthal is not perfect. Whilst the sludgy stoner riffs, melodic undertones and overall depth is highly welcomed, the style ages a little too quickly. It isn’t, at least for me, an album that I can spin for days on end. The vocals never stray from the catchy, airy-yet-compact singing and the riffs sometimes seem a little similar. Thankfully, the melodies are all distinguishable and combat this well. Additionally, Meanderthal is frighteningly short, only clocking in at a measly 36 minutes. In fact, the last 3 songs take up about 15 minutes so expect it to be over quick.

Torche have really produced a record that could be on the radio, but at the same time couldn’t. This kind of contrast is everywhere and is something to really applaud. Very few bands manage to combine musical opposites that work. Torche is one of them. If sludge/stoner is your thing and you’re looking for something that’s a considerably brighter, give Meanderthal a shot.

Here is the music video for their song “Across the Shields”

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xgvqEJstNrw]

-MK

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