There’s no actual rule saying that heavy bands have to dilute their heaviness when they indulge in melody — or, for that matter, when they put cutesie My Little Pony-looking dinosaurs on their album covers. For whatever reason, the nerve to attempt either still is rare, as Miami four-piece Torche demonstrates with its third full-length, Harmonicraft.
As on all previous Torche releases, the band relies mainly on its knack for combining densely layered guitar riffs with rich vocal arrangements, winding lead-guitar lines, and shimmering textures that give the music a radiance not unlike the wavy lines that appear to emanate off blacktop on a hot day.
Recorded by Torche bassist Jonathan Nuñez and mixed by Converge’s Kurt Ballou, Harmonicraft comes stuffed with so much sonic detail that the music practically melts in your mouth. Other groups may sound confused, bipolar, disastrously off-course, or ultimately limited in their attempts to expand the scope of their riffs. But Torche comes up with riffs that sound like they were meant to be infused with other flavor. Imagine taste-testing two chef’s dishes, each composed of one dominant flavor — paprika, chili sauce, whatever. With the first dish, all you can taste is one thing; with the second, your taste buds are met with a mouth-watering cascade of information. “How can all these flavors coexist side by side and work in concert together?” you ask yourself. If Harmonicraft were food, it would be the second dish.
This time around, the band also elevates its songwriting game above the tone fetishism of some its previous work. The result is an album full of anthems that, when taken together, lend themselves perfectly to such life-defining moments as road trips, keg parties, fist-pumping and singing out loud uncontrollably in public places, and solo listening in the dark on repeat. With Harmonicraft, Torche effortlessly combines brawny drive with melodic release.
The album also marks Torche’s first release to feature new guitarist Andrew Elstner, who participated fully in the songwriting, guitar playing, and vocal harmonizing alongside front-man Steve Brooks and bandmates. His presence adds a welcome new dimension after the 2010 recording of Songs for Singles as a three-piece.