, April 25th, 2012 04:09
Harmonicraft's cover is awash with illustrations of mythical creatures vomiting rainbows. On a purely aesthetic level it is kitsch and ridiculous… and indeed, a preliminary listen might indicate that the contents correlate to the cover. Massive Brian May style guitar solos, that QOTSA/Foo Fighters brand of heavy-handed stadium rock drumming, the rousing melodic vocals. How do they have the audacity to be so unrepentantly camp and grandiose?
But wait... isn't audacity actually a good thing? Yes and that's exactly why Harmonicraft should not be written off too quickly. Once you agree to surrender to the bombastic crescendos and the ostentatious solos the cynicism begins to melt. Somewhere in the middle of the fourth track 'Reverse Inverted' it begins to become enjoyable and Grohl et al. are left behind as it all explodes into glorious space rock. If you happened to watch Flash Gordon one too many times as a child this is the part where you will rediscover your love for overblown interstellar theatricality.
However, just as you've picked up your lightning spear and hooked up with Brian Blessed it takes off in another direction. Is that a disco beat? Yes they've stashed it into 'Snakes Are Charmed'. This might be a rock album but you can tell the band hails from Miami. It's like Gloria Estefan has referred them to Dr. Beat. It's incongruous, brazen and almost manipulatively euphoric. Similarly, in 'Roaming' they go for a ridiculously huge build up: calculated and protracted it might be, but it works.
Steve Brooks' melodic vocals are at turns a pleasure and pain, most enjoyable when meshing against the heavier tracks but slightly dull on the slower. Particularly irksome is 'Solitary Traveler' which evokes Eddie Vedder's whining on Pearl Jam Unplugged. Mercifully it's followed by the title track – a thundering Hawkwind-esque instrumental.
Torche were once described to me as "a bit like Fucked Up but the bloke can sing", yet his vocal proficiency is actually sometimes a disadvantage, lacking edge and gristle. Opening track 'Letting Go' feels overly earnest and harks back too closely to tired 90s rock. Fans of 2008's Meanderthal will note that the departure of guitarist Juan Montoya has given license to a more saccharine flavor which is all well and good - but it's a shame that they don't embrace it fully. Thematically Brooks is talking about letting go and sings about "cheering in the new" but it seems that the band have not fully let go of its earlier incarnation. This leaves Torche in a tricky spot: not brave enough to go all out camp and poppy yet no longer heavy enough to appeal to the die-hard stoner metal fan. Harmonicraft often strays into pastiche when they attempt to cling on to their past, but comes into its own when it strides confidently into new realms. No-holds-barred flamboyance is what Torche do best now.