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Torche combine melody, harmony and the bomb string

Thunder Pop



If you were to overhear some metalheads talking metal shop, you'd hear some pretty silly terms bandied around. Within doom metal alone there are too many different names for too many different sub-sects to count, often delineated by the narrowest of distinctions. There's drone doom, funeral doom, traditional doom, death doom, and on and on. One you don't hear too often is "doom pop." That's because, as best anyone can figure, Miami's Torche are the only doom pop band in existence.

As a whole, the rules for doom metal are pretty simple: Play low and slow. A lot of what divides the categories listed above is predicated on the style of vocals and percussion, and whether or not the chord progressions actually, you know, progress. In the case of Torche, the band comes across as a mess of contradictions, displaying pop sensibilities similar to bands like Helmet or Queens of the Stone Age but coupling those with riffs that make those bands sound anemic by comparison. And where a lot of bands have sought extra heaviness by tuning their guitars down from the standard E to D or C, guitarist Steve Brooks calls his lowest string the "bomb string," which he jokes is tuned to Z. It's actually a bass string that's more or less tuned to the lowest discernible note — the sludge-metal equivalent of going to 11.

Atop those gargantuan riffs are slick and polished vocal harmonies and hooks, an approach that — metallically speaking — isn't the most intuitive. But it's as successful as it is surprising, giving Torche perhaps the broadest crossover appeal of any metal band in the country. At the same time, their popularity amongst more esoteric underground scenes hasn't wavered. In 2008 they released Meanderthal, which ventures even further into brazenly poppy territory, yet still managed to score the top spot on metal magazine Decibel's list of best metal albums of the year.

But just a few years before that, the members of Torche were plugging away in various lesser-known metal bands around Florida, including hardcore band Cavity and Floor, the band in which Brooks originated the bomb string. Floor formed in 1992, and were relentlessly heavy in a dirgy, Melvins-y sort of way. Not too long ago they had their previously difficult-to-find catalog re-released in the form of a 10-LP, one-7-inch and eight-CD box set called Below & Beyond, available from Robotic Empire Records for $249.99. If you have that box set at your disposal, you can hear a pretty clear progression across Floor's catalog, and Torche essentially serve as a continuation. On the other hand, if you have that box set at your disposal, there's nothing we can tell you about these bands you don't already know.

But the last time Torche rolled through town, hardly anyone showed up, which gives us cause to believe that, of the 308 copies of Below & Beyond that were pressed, none of them are in Nashville. That show featured the newly trio'd version of Torche, as guitar Juan Montoya — who also happened to play in the last incarnation of Floor — had just been kicked out of the band because of ongoing personal and professional differences that reportedly led to Montoya's giving Brooks a shiner. Still, the band's live show manages to emphasize the thunder part of their self-described "thunder pop." Who needs another guitar when you've got a bomb string?


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