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Keeping the Torche Lit: “Admission” Sees the Sludge Outfit as Catchy as Ever

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Torche has endured more lineup upheaval since the band’s last album Restarter (2015) than it ever dealt with in the 15 years since the project emerged from the ashes of sludge superstars Floor. None of the changes were as acrimonious as when founding guitarist Juan Montoya left after fisticuffs with Steve Brooks, however his replacement Andrew Elstner has left too, replaced by the band’s founding bassist Jonathan Nuñez. Joining original drummer Rick Smith in the rhythm section is Eric Hernandez.

Hernandez brought the song “Slide” to Torche completely written, meaning it could have been something he was thinking about while in his previous project Wrong. Although both bands share Miami and Relapse Records as homes — and neither can be accused of breaking the speed limit — the sensibilities of both bands couldn’t be more different. Still, “Slide” did such a great job assimilating the classic Torche “thunder pop” sound and muting the noise of his previous band that it was a solid first single off the record.

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It’s hard to see any band other than Torche playing “Slide,” which is more of a testament to how consistent and unique the band is. This consistency follows through to the rest of Admission as well.

The band’s formula is well-established by now: subversive melodies that somehow rise to the forefront of songs built entirely of soaring riffs that in other hands could be sludge but in tandem with Brooks’ trademarked harmonic vocals actually seem sugary sweet rather than menacingly lumbering. It’s not completely unique — you can hear the influence of Helmet in the double-timed lead track “From Here” most audibly, for example — but it stands out nonetheless.

Since even the lineup changes weren’t enough of a good reason for Torche to deviate from what they’re known for, they didn’t. Instead, they tweaked things around the edges, likely in an attempt to accentuate the best qualities in the best Torche way, as it were. Even if it’s just one “quality” you’re after: the entire record is made up of songs that race to find the hook and then bludgeon said hook until it is impossible for it to leave your head.

It is immaterial whether Admission‘s material is slow and droning such as on “Times Missing,” “Inferno,” or the Sabbathian “On the Wire,” or slow and enigmatic such as on “Reminder.” It matters not even when the band speeds up, as they do on the brightly hued “Submission” or “What Was” which has a punk-like spirit and industrial cadence: Admission has some of the most convincingly catchy songcraft from a band whose canon has not exactly been lacking in that department. It doesn’t seem to matter who Brooks surrounds himself with, Torche is an entity that permeates everything he is, if not the other way around; then, this album refines all of it into pop-sludge perfection.

Admission released last Friday via Relapse. The band is currently on a US tour.

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