Metal fans have long argued over the importance of ‘heaviness.’ Can you really call yourself a heavy metal band and still make room for light and airy textures? For the past decade and a half, Torche has been a glowing argument for the inclusion of catchy rhythms, as they blur genre lines and provide a little something for fans of all ilks. By infusing sludge metal and psychedelia, the Miami-based quartet has continuously expanded their reach beyond metalheads into prog and even shoegaze communities. With their fifth full-length album, Admission, Torche continue to walk a delicate tonal tightrope, creating a kaleidoscopic oxymoron that truly separates them from their peers.
Torche really put their best foot forward with the album’s lead singles. The classic, upbeat club rock of “Admission” and heavy-hitting, pounding groove of “Slide” are both dripping with melodic rhythms. But they are only a piece of the puzzle. The album showcases both sides of Torche: the no holds barred stoner metal group and the laid-back jam band. Edgy tracks like booming, boiling “Infierno” and sludgy throwback “Extremes of Consciousness” would fit neatly into nearly every subset of heavy metal, while other moments like “On the Wire,” with its shifting tones and time signatures, and “Changes Come,” bittersweet yet hopeful as it looks toward the future and incorporates elements of electronica, are filled with genre-bending experimentation.
Admission starts off strong, but can often become a bit predictable, as repetitive riffs can sometimes lead to underwhelming payoffs and abrupt endings. Many of the short bursts of spastic energy (such as “From Here” and “What Was”) would have greatly benefited by being expanded upon a bit. We are able to see what they could become throughout the album, with stellar tracks from the droning build of “Reminder” to the rolling percussion of tried and true headbanger “Submission” to the grinding bottom fills of “Times Missing.” It’s rare to want longer tracks on a metal album, but many of the songs on Admission could stand to be fleshed out to their conclusion.
Once again, Torche prove themselves able to be a bridge between worlds, demonstrating both the raw, grimy edge and the intricate beauty of heavy metal. Admission would probably make for a great entry point into sludge metal, but it’s far from a definitive statement on the genre. The album takes some bold risks (many of which pay off nicely) but it doesn’t fully demonstrate the mesmerizing intensity we’ve seen from the band on previous releases like Restarter and Harmonicraft. Still, there are enough consistent moments of brilliance to sink into its entrancing grooves. Anytime a band is playing with this many different sounds, there’s going to be a variety in the quality of the execution, but Torche’s batting average is still significantly better than the vast majority of their contemporaries. Admission shoots for the moon, so it’s hard to be too disappointed when it lands in the somewhere in the cosmos.