December 11, 2015 | by Bryne Yancey

I have had longer relationships and forged more personal connections with other bands, but the truth is, no band in the world makes me happier than Torche.

Torche check every box. They write huge, muscular, sludgy guitar riffs with a familiar, yet somehow unmatched tone. Many of their riffs are heavy and low and completely immersive in such a satisfying way. But it’s not just that heaviness that’s captivating; Steve Brooks and Andrew Elstner can write bright, soaring, swirling guitar parts that, the first time you hear them you wonder, “WHOA, what the fuck was that?” Their creativity with their instruments, even in such an inherently limiting genre, is inspiring. But then it’s not just Brooks or Elstner, either; Jonathan Nunez’s basslines are so deep, so punishing, so catastrophic sounding, and Rick Smith hits the drums so goddamn hard, and uses empty space so well to make those fills hit even harder. It’s kind of exhausting, and perhaps unfair, how great Torche are at playing music and writing memorable songs. They’re peerless, yet there’s a sense of accessible fun permeating through every second of their music.

Instead of just being another metal band with droney, or distant or otherwise outwardly cold songs, Torche write some of the most luminescent pop hooks in the world. “Sludge-pop” is a popular rock crit term for this, and it’s not entirely inaccurate but it also doesn’t tell the whole story, because that pop sensibility, for the most part unheard elsewhere in the genre, is merely a small slice of the pie. It’s an important slice, to be sure, but it wouldn’t matter without Torche’s other attributes, their ear for a riff, those unmistakable guitar tones and bass crashes and drums that crack like thunder, their occasionally progressive leanings that perpetually walk the right side of the “OK, this is too long” line. They never get too weird or too plodding or even too heavy, really. It’s all very readily accessible.

Restarter, released earlier this year via Relapse, is Torche’s best, most well-rounded work to date. It melds everything that makes the band great into a relatively concise package, and every song offers something differently great. I keep returning to “Blasted,” though, because as syrupy and voluminous as the guitar tones are, there’s also a brightness to them. The riffs themselves are quick and tightly-wound, and the song is remarkably uptempo. Brooks’ vocal melodies here are top-notch. It feels like a hit radio single from a distant, much cooler world.