Torche – Harmonicraft

Torche

Harmonicraft
Volcom
It feels like ages since we had a proper Torche release. That is, if you discount the quicker than a hiccup release ‘Songs for Singles‘ in 2010. ‘Meanderthal‘ would have been an appropriate mantra for the band following the release of that album, with the following full length held up by line-up changes, singer/guitarist Steve Brooks getting back together with old band Floor, and a split with Part Chimp last year that featured not one but three Guided by Voices covers. Good things come to those who wait, however, and ‘Harmonicraft‘ is by and large the follow-up we all hoped for.
Andrew Elstner takes up the position of lead guitarist following the departure of Brooks’ long-time bandmate Juan Montoya, but ‘Harmonicraft‘ is typically Torche and begins with upbeat flourish. The anthemic ‘Kicking’ sums up what Torche do best, surely designed for the live arena when people will no doubt bounce in unison when Brooks yells out the word ‘Kicking!‘ Elstner gets the chance to put his stamp on the band with some searing guitar solos, such as the beginning of the 90-second ‘Walk It Off’.
Torche – Kicking

 Harmonicraft‘ trips up slightly during its midsection, a weak underbelly that strives too much for pop sensibility that it trips up over it and knocks their fine sludge/pop balance off kilter. No amount of echoing high end riffage such as at the beginning of ‘Snakes Are Charmed’ can avoid that, and the result is something distinctly lacking in any punch or any real sense of hook, and I failed to be overly enthused by the following track’s brief bounce (‘Sky Trials’) . Thankfully they manage to pull it back around by the end of the album, with ‘Kiss Me Dudely’ being a more rampaging celebration, and the outstanding and contemplative ‘Solitary Traveller’ is also particular highlight.

I don’t think ‘Harmonicraft‘ is Torche’s best work – I’ve noticed a lot of people hailing it and everything but it took a little while to grow on me, such a thing that didn’t happen with previous Torche releases. That said, the majority of ‘Harmonicraft‘ is quality, and when they get the formula right, boy do they get the formula right. The marriage between joyous and upbeat harmonies and sludgy downtempo melodies still work fine. My personal ideal is for them to not to tinker with the formula too much – it worked for AC/DC and The Ramones, and while Torche are neither of those bands, they have a formula that doesn’t require much alteration or experimentation.
Peter Clegg 
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Premonition 13 – 13

Premonition 13
13

Volcom
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Scott ‘Wino’ Weinrich has been at the forefront of stoner and doom metal for a good twenty-five years now, in an incredible career in which he can count himself a part of Saint Vitus, The Obsessed, Spirit Caravan, and many, many more besides. The man is a true living legend, and like all good living legends within the wider rock community, the man just does not stop. Having got extremely prolific lately with his solo projects and Shrinebuilder, he returns here with ‘13’, the debut album by his latest project, Premonition 13.

Wino revealed in a recent interview that he and guitarist Jim Karow had been jamming together for nearly two decades prior to writing and recording ‘13’, inspired by a love of ancient cultures, particularly the Mesoamerican. It begins atmospherically, the gradual, airy build-up achieved through the e-bow guitar, forming the introduction to ‘B.E.A.U.T.Y.’, the album’s longest song, which when it kicks in, reeks of Place of Skulls-esque riffery. It slips back into this ambience further on. Measuring in at nearly nine minutes long, it’s a laid back rocker that could only be created under the desert sun.
The album rocks up a little more with the reckless abandon ‘Hard To Say’, flash with some incredible soloing from Wino, and the heavy stomp of ‘Clay Pigeons’. It then simmers back down into psychedelic territory in ‘Senses’, which creates a real laid-back vibe, given how mellow the song is. The album heads back into typical Wino domain with ‘La Hechicera de la Jeringa’ – building up with a prelude before hitting you with Sabbathian riffage. It doesn’t stand out for me, particularly against Wino’s huge body of work, but it’s still a quality tune nonetheless.
The album loosens up again a little later on with ‘Deranged Rock ‘N’ Roller’, a song somewhat Motorhead in spirit, and the anthemic ‘Modern Man’, which sees Karow given a chance to shine by taking over on vocal duties. He does an effective job and  the song has a simple yet cracking chorus. These forays into good-time territory are unusual but certainly welcome; that is, until closer ‘Peyote Road’ which reclines with Wino almost evoking the spirits of the plains against the hum of the e-bow. You could picture yourself in the desert staring at nightfall whilst listening to this song, it truly creates that impression. It winds the album down in much the same way ‘B.E.A.U.T.Y.’ introduced it, and provides a perfect companion piece in respect.
One sense you get from this album is that Wino is really having fun here. There’s a real passion in his voice, particularly as ‘Clay Pigeons’ kicks in. When he shouts ‘uh!’ , his heart and soul is right in the song. He’s definitely in the zone. On more than one occasion, there’s a real power in his voice, defying the darker approach that marauds his work in Saint Vitus and The Obsessed and the melancholy that was evident on his incredible acoustic album, ‘Adrift’. That’s certainly unusual but it’s not out of place, and his trademark style still has plenty to show here. He’s more than ably assisted by Karow, who doesn’t miss the opportunities to shine; and by the rhythm section of drummer Matthew Clark (Ostinato) and bassist Brian Daniloski (ex-Meatjack), both of whom add significant backbone to the mix.
It’s not quite classic Wino, not by any stretch, but it’s another solid offering involving the overlord of stoner and doom metal, another line on the resumé, and another body of work that fans of his work (and those less familiar) shouldn’t go without.
Peter Clegg