Songs for Singles
Label: Hydra Head Records
When diagramming metal scenes across the United States, Florida is hardly a destination that comes to mind. How could sun, sand and sea be conducive to the darkness, despair and detachment associated with metal? Miami-based Torche shirk that idea- they have gained increasing popularity with their brand of sludge metal that’s slowly overtaking the South, in a movement that bands such as Mastodon and Baroness have recently restarted. Torche’s third EP (and sixth release overall), the aptly titled Songs for Singles, is solid, clearly devoid of pretension, but in some ways, also of ambition.
Singer/guitarist Steve Brooks has technical proficiency on his side, but his voice sounds hollow and worn. This is heard to great effect on the pulsing “Arrowhead,” creating a tension between his vocals and his vibrant playing, but mostly the strain it puts on his throat undercuts his power. The effectiveness of Torche is in their knowing how to utilize their elements, and songs like “Cast into Unknown” assault rather than build, never losing an ounce of steam. Incidentally, the band chooses to follow the punk rock aesthetic of short song/long sound, which firmly braces their talents and keeps their focus. Songs that might have been doughy and expansive instead become punchy and exciting.
“Hideaway” benefits from this treatment the most, with Brooks’ caterwauling dropping in between his locomotive guitar strumming chugging the song along to completion, even dropping in a sparse but effective noodle. Even slower tempo songs like “Face the Wall” weave Brooks’ guitar with Jonathan Nuñez’s bass and Rick Smith’s shotgun drumming into a perfect storm, creating a grimy, thick sound that resonates long after the speakers are blown out by it. Closer “Out Again” trembles under Brooks’ hammering chords and opener “U.F.O.” uses his voice effectively as more of a sound effect than anything else, making his washed-out vocals akin to a beacon.
Songs for Singles is essentially a stop-gap release for the band and it finds them in fine form. Their skills remain as honed as ever and while the record doesn’t set as well as a full-length might, it holds together strongly enough to suggest that the band hasn’t lost sight of their mission to make Florida stand out for the metal scene as much as it does for the other, shittier music it’s famous for. Songs for Singles isn’t a placeholder as much as a mile marker.
by Rafael Gaitan