Melody and Weight

Torche--the 'e' is silent--come to Tucson to promote one of the year's best metal albums

First things first: The "e" in Torche is silent.

You pronounce the name of the 4-year-old heavy-rock band as simply "torch." It's not "tor-shay" or "tor-sha" or any froo-froo variation thereof.

There's nothing silent, though, about the explosive, psychedelic-based doom-metal that Torche guitarists Steve Brooks and Juan Montoya unleash to fuel the quartet's monstrous sound.

With drummer Rick Smith and bassist Jonathan Nuñez, they've created the triumphant Meanderthal. The album is--thanks to an uncanny melding of Helmet and the Melvins--quite simply one of the most refreshing and satisfying metal releases of the year. Riffs of gorgeous sludge are layered upon each other to create a lush, hypnotic and almost pop-catchy monument of heavy rock.

Torche is touring now, and the band will hit Tucson for an all-ages date at The Rock on Monday, Nov. 17.

"What we want to do is something that isn't like most stoner-rock or doom-metal bands, or whatever. This is a whole different fish," Montoya said during a recent telephone interview.

"It's meant to have the melodic qualities of pop, but to add that psychedelic flavor and something really, really heavy. It's like when we play, we want the whole room to be shaking, you know, so it feels like the building is moving 2 inches over."

And on Meanderthal, Torche has achieved that, especially with tracks on which the infectious, neck-snapping drones demand you hit the "repeat" button, such as "Grenades," "Healer," "Across the Shields," "Fat Waves" and even the math-rock opener "Triumph of Venus." It's all pretty glorious.

Not bad for what is only the band's second full-length album. Before the Meanderthal age, Torche saw the release of its debut CD and an EP on Robotic Empire Records. The new one comes to the world via the maverick metal label Hydra Head, although Robotic Empire still handles the releases of all limited-edition Torche vinyl.

The seeds for Torche began germinating while Brooks and Montoya (a veteran of the band Cavity) were playing together in the somewhat legendary Miami act Floor.

"Floor was pretty much an underground band, but with a cult following all over the world," Montoya said. "With Torche, Steve and I wanted to refine and evolve the sound, so we got Rick and Jonathan and headed in a new direction."

These days, the members of Torche split their time between Miami and Atlanta. Smith, by the way, moonlights in the grindcore act Shitstorm.

In just four years, Torche has won over indie-metal tastemakers, playing tours with such acts as Isis, Baroness, The Sword, Jesu, Pelican, Boris and Mogwai, proving that you can judge a band, at least a little, by the company it keeps.

You'll hear some familiar sounds in Torche's music--old-school sludge such as Black Sabbath, post-punk noise rock and the technical precision of extreme modern metal. This, despite the fact that Brooks has gone on record in the past as saying that Torche is not a metal band.

Montoya, though, is serious when he says that he and his bandmates bonded over a shared love of Van Halen. Like Eddie and the boys, Torche wants to find a balance of melody and weight.

And, lest anyone think Torche's members have narrow tastes, in the course of a 20-minute interview, Montoya expressed the band's admiration for, and cites the influence of, artists as wide-ranging as Pink Floyd, John Zorn, the Beatles, Godflesh and Rush.

Montoya spoke to the Tucson Weekly on the eve of the band's departure for Japan, where they were scheduled to play a mini-tour before returning to the United States.

Montoya said he's especially looking forward to Torche's opportunity to play the All Tomorrow's Parties festival "The Nightmare Before Christmas," Dec. 5-7 in Minehead, England. Also on the bill will be the Melvins/Fantômas, the Butthole Surfers, Squarepusher, Mastodon and Isis, among others.

"Just to be invited to be part of a concert with so many great acts is really an example of how blessed we are at this point in our career," he said. "But then I think about how lucky we are to play every night, and to feel the energy of everyone in the room build and grow. It's a great feeling."

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