By Dr. Abner Mality

I can't think of a band that's a better fit for Relapse Records than Torche. I wonder what took them so long to hook up? Certainly Torche is one of the guiding forces in combining true heaviness with pop hooks. Sludge pop, anyone? Anyhoo, "Restarter" is the first collaboration of the band and the label and it's a corker.

I think Torche has perfected what the original "grunge" bands like Mudhoney and early Nirvana were after. A combination of grimy, dirty guitar riffs, the powerful thrust of hardcore punk and the clear melodies of classic indie pop. The grunge bands became overproduced and too focused on radio hits, but here Torche retains the sludgy, thick sound of early noise rock pioneers and even Black Sabbath. This is real crossover with the potential to please many constituencies.

"Annihilation Affair" comes lumbering out of its cell with fists cocked. Thudding, grungy riffs hit you in the mouth, but then the clean vocal melodies come in and add a hypnotic aura. Many of the songs here are short and to the point. "Bishop In Arms", "Undone" and "Blasted" are quick and brutal, but maintain the hooky vocals. But there are some slower, more mesmerizing songs that ooze along like an amoeba and draw you in. "Minions" is a great cut with awesome riffs and a chorus that will stick in your head a lot longer than the usual growled/screamed stuff. "No Servants" pours on the feedback and noise, but it's the title track that kills with a fantastic repetitive riff with a soaring feel. The song deconstructs itself as it plods on, finally losing percussion and dissolving into a wall of guitar noise. This is the one song that exceeds the five minute mark.

I love what this band is doing. Only the grouchiest old school metal knucklehead could complain about the heaviness of the guitar and riffing here. These songs are growing on me like moss and I think Torche could be one of the most important bands out there right now.