Regardless of how wide the genre spans, “metal” can be off-putting to anyone unfamiliar with the music. Furthermore, references to specific sub-genre labels like “stoner” or “sludge” metal can put off even more potential fans. And while they tend to be hit with these labels by the press and even their fans regularly, Miami’s Torche take this as a challenge and one that they rise above regularly.
Sure, there’s plenty of thick, sludgy riffs all over their albums, but Torche go the extra mile by incorporating other genres into the music in sometimes subtle forms. It’s rare for a band to do such an admirable job of transcending all the trappings and the pigeonholing. Their love of different types of music is folded into the sound, but never in a way that seems compromising. “I feel like we all listen to so many different types of music, but not really much within the realm of what we’re considered to play,” explains Torche guitarist Jonathan Nunez in their latest press kit.
Admission is Torche’s long-awaited fifth full length album (following 2015’s Restarter) and while a minor personnel shakeup has taken place in the interim, the music remains largely unchanged. Nunez – who switched from bass to guitar after the 2016 departure of guitarist Andrew Elstner – is joined by vocalist/guitarist Steve Brooks, drummer Rick Smith, and new bassist Eric Hernandez. The guitar assault begins immediately with the short opener “From Here” and rarely lets up.
“Submission” follows with brawny slabs of bass and guitar relentlessly hanging off the beat, accompanying Brooks’ caustic lyrics: “Give up everything / And incinerate your soul / No challenge if you never want to go.” The single “Slide” is one of the album’s early highlights, thanks in large part to the irresistible Black Sabbath-style riff that memorably punctuates the track. Admission isn’t without surprising and welcome tempo changes, either. “What Was” comes deliriously close to thrash levels, both in the BPMs and the 1:30 run time.
One difference between Admission and previous Torche albums lies in the overall finished sound. Like Restarter, Nunez produced Admission, but there’s a distinctly richer tone to the songs. Guitars are clearer and sharper. It’s possible that in the years since Restarter, the band took time to reassess their approach to the studio. Of course, having new bassist Hernandez on hand certainly doesn’t hurt.
As Admission winds through its 11 distinct tracks, there are echoes of stoner-tinged shoegaze (“Times Missing”), 1990s-era guitar grunge (the surprisingly melodic title track), and heavily distorted slow-motion riff fests (“Infierno”, “On the Wire”). The amount of variety within the grooves is sometimes subtle, and often pleasantly jarring. As watery distortion effects fill the guitar leads on the closing track, “Changes Come”, Brooks sings “I’m alright / The kid isn’t gone” and what sounds like either a synth lead or a heavily processed guitar floats above the song, adding yet another dimension to a deceptively varied album. Admission isn’t an enormous change in the sound of Torche, but rather an affirmation that this band insists on forging new paths and confounding expectations.