Torche is a talented band that appear to be rendered unfocused by their lack of freedom to explore.
For 15 years, Miami’s stoner-sludge (whichever modifier you prefer) metal act Torche have been a metal band for people who aren’t metalheads. It’s hard to put a finger on why this is, but since songs like “Vampyro” and “Charge of the Brown Recluse” on their debut, their control of the balance between heaviness and trippiness has been downright addicting; it didn’t hurt that Torche’s cover – an erupting volcano juxtaposed against a Sad Songs for Dirty Lovers-esque color swirl – was a surprisingly effective draw. Four-plus years past 2015’s Restarter, which furthered the band’s goal to make engaging, pop-tinged metal goodness, Torche are back with Admission – but whether they succeed in this is somewhat up for debate.
Okay, so it’s really not entirely up for debate – with Admission, the band prove that the break hasn’t deadened their sludge-production abilities. Opener “From Here” hits you with a doom-laden left-hook, frontperson-guitarist Steve Banks’ Sleep-like voice a perfect foil for their intensity. Banks’ voice is one of the best parts of Torche, able to stand against the shredding with refreshing clarity – all credit to long-time producer Kurt Ballou for pulling this trick off every time. The one-two punch of the wailing “On A Wire” and the murky “Infierno” is definitive Torche, repetitive in all the right ways and punishingly heavy, the latter coming packed with guitars that sound like they’re actually on fire and a bass line that doesn’t sound far off from a roaring flame. Nothing here matches the intensity of their older albums, but it’s not always about the size of the riffs.
But when they try to alter the formula, it leads to mixed results. “Times Missing” is positively dreamy, Banks taking on a Slowdive-like glide. “Admission” takes this a step further by actively sounding like Ride and The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, a catchy song who’s chugging guitars can’t mask the fact that it sounds like a stoner metal take on classic Britpop. They mastered this trick on the debut’s “Fire” balanced the two as well as the heaviest Joy Formidable songs, but it worked better then; here it feels like the trick is almost too obvious. The aptly-named closer “Changes Come” doesn’t quite know where to stand, its soaring riffs sounding like Foo Fighters in their heyday but too drenched in reverb to the point of sounding not sludgy, but soupy. You can see what they were going for with these songs, but they lack the steam to pull it off effortlessly.
Metal is all about extremes, which makes it shocking that it’s such a conservative genre sonically speaking. Torche is a talented band that appear to be rendered unfocused by their lack of freedom to explore, and Admission sees them sheepishly trying on different hats just long enough for you to get a peek, but not long enough for them to establish any comfort. This may be projecting, though, as it’s hard to hear songs like the title track and not wonder what it would look like if they leaned into those non-metal aspects. Torche have yet to make a bad album, but with Admission, they’ve regrettably made one that doesn’t feel destined to keep hold of you for long.