Kurt Vile & the Violators
Store Vega, Copenhagen, DEN - 5/12
Written by: AP on 01/11/2012 12:39:11
When a member of Converge is involved in the recording of an album somehow, that tends to be a strong cue that the band in question is special. Personally at least, I have yet to come across an album released on Deathwish Inc. or engineered by Kurt Ballou that didn't inject a refreshing agent into the genre in question. "Harmonicraft", the third studio album by Miami, FL born Torche is no exception. It isn't a Deathwish Inc. release to be fair, but the mixing and mastering has been orchestrated by Ballou, and it shows.
While in the past Torche has widely been regarded as a stoner or sludge metal band, "Harmonicraft" tempts the inauguraton of a new subgenre altogether: pop-stoner. Sounds strange to be sure, but imagine U2 trying their hand at the aforementioned genres, and you should have a pretty good picture of what Torche sound like on this album. What that basically translates to is all the groove and punch of stoner and sludge blown into stadium proportions by a huge echoing soundscape and a wonderfully positive tone throughout. It is a sound that strikes as highly unusual in a genre usually characterized by murk; one which consequently establishes Torche as one of its most exciting prospects right now.
Given that "Harmonicraft" is jampacked with songs that could be singled out as highlights, it is not so much an album where its success relies on the strength of its singles as one that thrives on consistency. But even though it is difficult to point out any real weaknesses in its 13-strong tracklist, there are naturally a select few picks that stand out. One of these is "Kicking", an absolutely unforgettable combination of everything that makes "Harmonicraft" such an enthralling album. It provides exactly the right release following an opening track, "Letting Go", which teases the listener with a rhythm that is begging to explode; a simple yet effective main riff and bass interplay driving the song into your eardrums with all the force of a sledgehammer, all the while it curiously turns your thoughts to a massive radio hit. You will discover a similar juxtaposition in most of the songs on "Harmonicraft" - that is its primary attribute - but especially "Snakes Are Charmed", another standout track, recalls the enormous pop sensibilities of U2 favorites like "Beautiful Day" and "Elevation" with an irresistible harmonized lead melody courtesy of guitar-toting frontmen Steve Brooks and Andrew Elstner that breaks into one of the most uplifting tunes this year.
Those listeners looking for a fix of the psychedelia that typically governs stoner and sludge metal albums need not be disappointed either, however, as Torche have taken care to cater to that segment of their fans too. The most rewarding pick in this context would be "Reverse Inverted" - one of my personal favorites off the album - which is a fairly traditional stoner rock piece packing an excellent wah wah intro, plenty of swathing groove and a spaced out atmosphere that recalls Mastodon in their song "Octopus Has No Friends", and "Skin Moth" provides similar vibes with a slightly faster pace. "Roaming", too, conforms to this strategy, though its slow trudge soon evolves into a high-tempo two-bar call-and-response hook that sounds almost like pop-punk. In general, however, the songs are brief and ongoing, with Torche preferring to remain below the 3-minute mark.
What truly marks "Harmonicraft" for candidacy as one of the best albums released this year - certainly in the sludge and stoner circles at least - is the sheer amount of joy that has gone into creating the thing. It is triumphant without being marred by grandiose pretension, allowing Torche to sound both muscular and catchy without ever lapsing into melodrama. Some might take these increments of accessibility in comparison to the band's debut album "Meanderthal" as catering to the mainstream of course, but if you're willing to look past genre elitism and enjoy a good, solid, straight-up rock record every now and then, "Harmonicraft" will deliver it in tightly wound, exuberant format.
Download: Kicking, Reverse Inverted, Snakes Are Charmed, Skin Moth
For the fans of: Baroness, Mastodon, U2
Release date 24.04.2012