After the comparatively poppy Harmonicraft Torche swing the pendulum the other way to deliver their most righteously heavy album to date.
It doesn’t take long for Torche to announce that things are going to be different this time. Harmonicraft was full of neat little pop-tinged rock songs but for long time fans it felt like the bottom end of the band had gone AWOL. The elemental fuzz that was their trademark had been removed make way for more streamlined, breezy rock vibe that embodied the day-glo gaudiness of it’s album sleeve. Which was fine and all, but those of us who’d fallen in love with Torche via parent band Floor and their early, scuzzy recordings missed the accompanying gut-punch that went with the syrupy vocals.
Annihilation Affair delivers a sucker punch to the sternum before your finger has had time to leave the play button.
A slow, crushing vat of sludge that harks back to the band’s earliest work, it features the welcome return of the ‘bomb string,’ the detuned, rumbling loose string that sounds like distant cities being carpet bombed. It was entirely absent on Harmonicraft and the lengthy wig out at the end underpinned that familiar elemental thud sends out a clear message: they mean business this time around.
For the rest of the album they split the difference between their more doomy numbers and their faster, poppier counterparts. They’re still in touch with their lighter side – there’s a certain levity to their sound that makes even the slowest, crustiest numbers, like the tectonic groove of Barrier Hammer, seem postively breezy. There’s is a sound of two extremes and whilst there’s room to tinker in the middle they’re never as effective when they favour one over the other. They’re like a silk covered baseball bat or a hybrid ice cream van/steamroller.
They’ve also rediscovered the value of brevity – to the point where they could perhaps have stood to make things a little longer. Restarter lasts under 40 minutes with nearly 9 of those taken up by the single riff title track at the record’s end. Some of the albums high points are of the blink and you’ll miss ’em variety – the spectacular three track run of Loose Men to Blasted, with it’s bomb string punctuated riffery, drifts by in less than 9 minutes between them. It’s creates a bit uneven feel and gives the impression that they’re in an awful rush to get to the end. In the midst of the chaos are some of the bands finest moments to date: you just might have to listen a few times to catch them.
So it seems that worries that Steve Brooks might be spreading himself a bit thin running both Torche and the rebooted Floor simultaneously were unfounded. Restarter isn’t quite up there with Meanderthal, but it’s not far off – perhaps it’s simply that don’t have the element of surprise on their side anymore that keeps their work from having the same impact. But in the end it doesn’t really matter – they do what great bands are supposed to do several records in: roll up, drop a few new live favorites and contenders for fan made ‘Best Ofs’ and ride off into the sunset until the next time.