i am your armor: sunday metal blogging

2008 saw some outstanding metal releases: Harvey Milk, Earth, Protest the Hero, Boris, Cynic.  Torche’s Meanderthal though, gets the honor of being the first album (metal or non-) that I’ll add to my list of ’08 oversights. And it’s only second week. A life performance, indicative of the album’s sunken anthems:

The signifiers of sludge metal are in place: drop-tuned, churning riffs, bass-heavy chugs. As with many indie-metal bands of the moment, the Melvins are the obvious touchstone. Submerged in the metal morass, though, are songs that could be power-pop gems. The vocals are frequently harmonized, the guitar-work alternates freight-train riffage with jittery, angular melodic lines that wouldn’t sound out of place on a Brit Rock band in the Smiths-Stone Roses lineage.  But the sludge-pop aesthetic achieves a more consistent and enjoyable blend than you might think possible: the chorus to “Sundown”, for example, is crushing and transcendent.

Steve Brooks’ immense skill as a songwriter and a vocalist is key to the delivery. He can do a soaring chorus as well as any alt-rock crooner, and he manages to make the melodies cohere with their gloomy surroundings. The results are bracing, often uplifting. Two tracks in the center of the album, “Across the Shields” and the aforementioned “Sundown” make the best argument for Torche’s triumphant metal popcraft, though the closing trio makes it clear that the band could be just as successful working in a more experimental vein.

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~ by staticandme on January 11, 2009.

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