Torche (performing tonight, September 18, at Larimer Lounge) started in Miami in 2004 after the dissolution of Floor, the band guitarist/vocalist Steve Brooks and former guitarist Juan Montoya had played in through much of the 90s and early 2000s. Torche picked up some of where Floor left off but took the heaviness in a more melodic and experimental direction across several albums including 2019’s Admission (N.B., Floor has reunited since its 2004 split and is technically still active). The new record reflects the band’s eclectic influences and roots as a band. New bassist Eric Hernandez or heave noise rock weirdos Wrong has played with Torche on and off filling in for drummer Rick Smith when the latter was not able to tour including, according to Brooks, a 2006 European tour. So the new role simply meant Hernandez was still playing with his friends in a new capacity. “After we lost two guitar players Jon [Nuñez] started playing guitar and he said we should get Eric to play bass,” comments Brooks.
Torche has never really fit the mold of a heavy metal band and Admission sounds more like a heavier neo-shoegaze album or noise rock record than heavy metal even though there are plenty of moments when the band plumbs those sonic depths that are part of its overall aesthetic. Part of this is accounted for by the fact that Brooks and the other members of Torche came up in Miami. Earlier in life, according to Brooks, he saw Melvins in 1991 and Godflesh on its early tours in 1989 or 1990. “I thought this was the type of stuff I wanted to do,” says Brooks. But finding like-minded musicians was a challenge and the guitarist moved to Atlanta in 1995 for a few years because the drummer of Floor lived there. Then the band got another drummer who lived in central Florida posing another challenge in the commute and Brooks “would drive three to four hours to practice on weekends.”
Locally Floor would play a club called Churchill’s often and frequently drove to Gainesville, Florida to play where a sizable audience might be found but back home it was playing to friends. So Floor and then Torche built up an audience well beyond their respective home towns out of necessity and have since cultivated a national and international fan base on a fairly grassroots basis.
Perhaps reflective of Torche’s non-genre purist sound is its current tour with experimental synth and heave drone band Pinkish Black for the bulk of the journey and ethereal yet emotionally charged darkwave project SRSQ (Kenndy Ashlyn formerly of Them Are Us Too) for the first leg of the tour. Torche’s current sound seems more introspective than one would expect from its previous offerings and when bringing Hernandez up to speed for the kinds of things to have in mind for moods and tones, Torche recommended listening to the first three Gary Numan albums for inspiration.
“We write a lot of riffs inspired by synths,” says Brooks. “Gary Numan is a big influence on us. So we threw that out. It’s the same thing except we’re playing guitars. The vibe.”
Admission has the evocative Richard Vargas cover art with a simple design favored by Torche this time out rather than anything too intricate. The image is of a head with the lower face intact but the upper head having exploded into the aftermath of a volcanic eruption suggesting either blowing minds of having one’s mind blown.
Although Torche has been around for fifteen years and toured internationally and it supports the members of the band, the group still operates like an underground outfit but one with the cachet to have albums released on the likes of Relapse with its two most recent records. But as with a lot of bands who are still playing small clubs and theaters Torche does its own driving and selling its own merch most of the time. Although its name is known among connoisseurs of heavy music the band isn’t so far removed from the challenges of its early days.
“It was really challenging when we first started because we weren’t making any money,” says Brooks. “Now we’re able to survive. The challenging part is actually all the traveling, trying to get sleep. Last night we partied and then I ended up going home and woke up at six o’clock in the morning and my band was in my room and I was like, ‘What the fuck are you all doing here?”’They were staying with friends before but they were in my house. They had broken into my house because I wasn’t waking up. I woke up naked because I took an Uber home, took a shower and went straight into bed. I woke up thought ‘Fuck, there are people in my room!’ The challenge is having privacy.”
Who:Red Fang w/Telekinetic Yeti and Quits When: Thursday, 12.6, 7 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: Red Fang is a “stoner rock” band from Portland, Oregon that started out when that form of music was a big trend in underground metal. But Red Fang’s knack for writing a solid melody and its self-awareness and sense of humor set it apart from early on. After all, who gets über metal nerd comedian Brian Posehn to cameo in your music video (“Wires) unless you’re somewhat legit but don’t take yourself too seriously. It’s been a couple of years since the band’s most recent album but in 2018 it released an interesting choice for a single in Tubeway Army’s “Listen to the Sirens.” Opening the show are two fairly different kinds of bands. Dubuque, Iowa’s Telekinet Yeti makes a sort of groove-oriented doom-sludge, like a more psychedelic Fu Manchu. Quits from Denver is a noise rock juggernaut whose membership includes Luke Fairchild of Git Some fame, Doug Mioducki (formerly of indie pop band Felt Pilotes and noise rock groups Sparkles, Witchdoctor and CP-208) and Darren Kulback (ex-Hot White and Poison Rites). When the band started former Hot White vocalist/bassist Tiana Bernard brought her emotional intensity and charisma to the band but since she moved out of state, Neil Keener has stepped in with his considerable abilities honed in projects like Planes Mistaken For Stars, Git Some and Woven Hand.
Friday | December 7, 2018
Who: Godflesh w/In The Company of Serpents
When: Friday, 12.7, 7 p.m.
Where: The Oriental Theater
Why: Godflesh was oft-cited as an early grindcore band by the national music press in the late 80s when the group’s landmark industrial metal album Streetcleaner was released in 1989. That same year other significant records in the realm of what came to be called alternative music emerged with Nine Inch Nail’s Pretty Hate Machine, Soundgarden’s Louder Than Love and Pixies’ Doolittle. The combination of scorching, grinding, forbidding guitar and bass work backed by beats generated through drum machines was not in line with metal orthodoxy and too abrasive even for most fairly adventurous radio stations. Though in being explicitly against the tough guy stance in its lyrics, Godflesh was certainly articulating an ethos that was in opposition to the hypermasculine rock and roll image and rhetoric of the time.
Fast forward decades and the duo has experimented with atmosphere and dynamics, expanding the palette of Godflesh overall while not dispensing with a style of music that reflects the harshness of the world as a sort of sonic totem against it. Guitarist Justin Broadrick has also explored various musical interests including forays into the realms of electronic music not always present in his work with Godflesh including the projects Techno Animal, Jesu, Pale Sketcher, Final and Scorn, among others. Bassist G.C. Green, who founded Godflesh with Broaderick in the mid-80s when the latter was a teenager whose pioneering guitar work on the first half of the 1987 Napalm Death album Scum was one of the blueprints for extreme metal generally and grindcore in particular, has also contributed more than his fair share to experimental music with his contributions to Final and Main. All the biographical details aside, Godflesh as a live duo is even more beautifully brutal than the records might suggest and as powerfully menacing.
Opening the show is the excellent Denver doom/extreme metal band In the Company of Serpents. The group has evolved quite a bit over the years from an early sort of high contrast death-grind doom sound and now Grant Netzorg’s songwriting has folded in his inspirations from dark Americana, Swans and Earth. It’s still towering riffs and gritty vocals but with a more song-oriented approach rather than what could at times seem conceptual.
Who:The Number 12 Looks Like You, Rolo Tomassi, Arsonists Get All the Girls When: Friday, 12.7, 7 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: The Number 12 Looks Like You melded together an instinct for amped emotional expression and math rock and by not sounding like every other screamo and post-hardcore band, established a bit of a cult status for its inventive sound that fans of Hella and Blood Brothers might find incredibly appealing. After breaking up in 2010, the group returned to active status in 2016 with this its first appearance in Denver since reconvening.
Who:Weaponizer w/Rotstrotter and Flight of Sleipnir When: Friday, 12.7, 6:30 p.m. Where: Bannock Street Garage Why: Weaponizer’s blackened thrash has surprisingly keen songwriting as though the guys in the band grew up listening to metal but not getting lost in just the making sounds their parents might hate and actually writing songs that will probably endure past the time it’s no longer active. This show celebrates guitarist Justin Kelly’s fortieth birthday and the band will be joined by deathgrind band Rotstrotter and Flight of Sleipnir who seem to draw some major inspiration from Scandinavian, transcendental metal bands and perhaps people in the band have read Egil’s Saga or Heimskringla or any of the old Viking epics.
Saturday | December 8, 2018
Who:CupcakKe When: Saturday, 12.8, 7 p.m. Where: The Summit Music Hall Why: Maybe CupcakKe is considered a “dirty rap” artist because of the sexual content of her raps. But she’s no more so than many artists who haven’t been similarly dubbed. Her creatively layered beats alone would make her an artist of note but even among the unapologetic, sometimes boastful, stream of words, CupcakKe actually makes some interesting, insightful and poignant truthful commentary about life. Her fourth album, 2018’s Eden, may be a bit moodier on a few tracks than some of her previous releases but it just demonstrates her range as an artist and nowhere on the album is the IDGAF about foolishness attitude in short supply.
Who:Calm. album release w/Extra Kool, Joe Alan and Cosmicam the Cosmos When: Saturday, 12.8, 7 p.m. Where: The Summit Music Hall Why: Two of Denver’s underground hip-hop greats, Calm. and Extra Kool, perform tonight to raise awareness of the issues facing the homeless by inviting those who show up to donate coats and other warm gear to Denver Homeless Outloud which also dedicates its efforts to stop the city’s misguided and destructive camping ban. Calm. also releases its incendiary new album Things I Learned While Dying in Denver on this night as well.
Who:Anthony Ruptak release of A Place That Never Changes w/Los Mocochetes and Kramies When: Saturday, 12.8, 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Anthony Ruptak’s new album A Place That Never Changes nearly didn’t happen when all his music gear, songbooks and money for recording was stolen from his home. But years of good karma playing in the Mile High City and running one of the best open mic nights in town meant the community came to his aid and helped him to complete the debut LP. The record is never just one flavor. There are bits of freak folk, indie pop, chamber rock and pastoral country but it all comes together as a statement, in the form of vignettes, on a how life and your surroundings change even if you feel as though it never really, in essence, does. Ruptak brilliantly explores the frustrations, the worries, the aspirations, the fantasies and yearnings of a generation and a society that seems to be stalled out and assaulted by forces seemingly beyond our control. All while suggesting we can work around the situation if we open ourselves up to our own imagination and share the angst and struggles with others even if just a little. Fans of Mercury Rev, My Morning Jacket and Iron & Wine will find much to love about A Place That Never Changes.
Monday | December 10, 2018
Who:Protomartyr and Preoccupations w/Teeth of the Hydra When: Monday, 12.10, 7 p.m. Where: The Bluebird Theater Why: On a short list of the great post-punk/art punk bands of today would have to include Detroit-based noise rock weirdos Protomartyr and Preoccupations from Alberta, Canada and its brooding yet expansive atmospheric guitar rock. So it’s only fitting that the two bands are touring together and releasing a split single on which each band covered the other. Preoccupations’ interpretation of Protomartyr’s “Pontiac 87” from that band’s 2015 album The Agent Intellect is brimming with a moving, haunted sense of resignation. Whereas Protomartyr’s cover of “Forbidden” from Preoccupations’ 2016 self-titled album honors the somber grit that gives way to elevated emotional states that made the original so compelling. Both bands have a gift for using atmosphere with an emotional push and intensity coupled with layered musical textures and dynamics that even when each hits a hypnotic peak of repetition it remains heady until the end. Each band would be worth seeing alone but a bill together makes it potentially one of the great shows in Denver of 2018.
Who:Middle Kids w/The Shacks When: Monday, 12.10, 7 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: Australian rock band Middle Kids released its debut full-length, Lost Kids, in 2018 and did us all a favor by showing how one can be pretty much unabashedly influenced by music that one’s peers made trendy and do something more interesting with it. The songs seem to be rooted in a sort of folk rock songwriting mode, twinges of 70s Laurel Canyon haunting its edges, while incorporating elements of fuzzy 90s rock. But with uncommonly thoughtful and wise lyrics that are nostalgic yet self-conscious of the tendency to romanticize when the bare truth can often be more poetic than a sanitized personal revision of one’s life.
Tuesday | December 11, 2018
Who:The Helio Sequence w/Wild Pink When: Tuesday, 12.11, 7 p.m. Where: Globe Hall Why: The Helio Sequence were exploring spacious melodies and daydream tones when it wasn’t too widely present in modern music outside of IDM acts like Boards of Canada and Clark. As a duo, the band had to be creative and efficient in their execution of sounds so there is a fairly different sound from other bands that are often placed under the banner of indie rock. Before the latter was a clumsily vague banner term The Helio Sequence was often described as being within the realm of psychedelic rock and shoegaze, which is true enough, but its musical roots also stretch to Pacific Northwest underground rock, drummer Benjamin Weikel even having drummed on the 2004 Modest Mouse record Good News for People Who Love Bad News. In 2008 The Helio Sequence released its second, and breakthrough, album Keep Your Eyes Ahead. It represented a more overtly well-composed pop direction that band would expound upon thereafter—soaring melodies, introspective lyrics and always inventive soundscaping. For this tour the project is celebrating the ten year anniversary of the album that propelled it into a circle of success wider than underground cult status.
Who:Demoncassettecult w/Machu Linea and Mirror Fears When: Tuesday, 12.11, 8 p.m. Where: Lion’s Lair Why: Beat driven, noise influenced experimental electronic music is the theme for this show. Demoncassettecult combines industrial soul samples (close enough) with R&B vocals for something that shouldn’t exist but completely makes sense live and on the projects recordings. Machu Linea is the latest project from Armando Garibay who was a member of The Circus House, a sort of avant-garde psychedelic pop band that included former Ancient Elk vocalist Anna Smith. Machu Linea is like downtempo deep house reminiscent of Sunday 8PM-period Faithless but updated. Same dusky, beautifully moody, hip-hop-inflected dance music. Machu Linea’s 2018 album GIRL would be in the upper echelons of a best of dance music list for the year if the wider world was aware of it. Mirror Fears, of course, has been pushing the envelope of electronic music in Denver without being an electronic dance artist per se. Not that dance beats and programming aren’t part of her sound because they are but she also comes to the music from the perspective of someone who spent time in a dream pop band as well as being steeped in the local noise and experimental music scenes. Lately her songwriting has delved further into beat-driven electronic composition.
Who:John Grant w/Two Medicine When: Tuesday, 12.11, 7 p.m. Where: The Bluebird Theater Why: John Grant’s Denver music history is pretty respectable as the keyboard player of an early incarnation of gloom rock legends Twice Wilted and then as the lead singer/pianist of dream pop band The Czars. But upon leaving Denver to pursue his artistic fortunes elsewhere, Grant embarked upon a critically acclaimed career under his own name beginning with 2010’s excellent Queen of Denmark. His command of electronic music composition in the context of artier pop songwriting has made all of his solo albums worth listening to on their own. That his lyrics are thoughtful, even insightful, and relevant to the vagaries of modern life has kept his songs fresh and striking. Currently Grant is touring in support of his 2018 album Love is Magic.
Who:S A D Nois, Lipglo$$, Equine and more When: Tuesday, 12.11, 7:30 p.m. Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective Why: S A D Nois and its sound sits somewhere at the intersection of modern classical, noise and textured environment sound composition. Lipglo$$ is sort of like a weird, ambient, noise take on trap and profane and hypnotic. Maybe influenced by video game music and Tim & Eric. Equine is Kevin Richards’ use of his mastery of weird jazz chords and phrases, minimalism and processing both in fascinating directions.
Wednesday | December 12, 2018
Who:La Armada w/Allout Helter, Targets, No Sign of Remose and others When: Wednesday, 12.12, 7 p.m. Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective Why: La Armada from Santo Domingo in the Domincan Republic is one of the most popular hardcore bands in the country and it has made an impact throughout the North American underground with its crossover sound and political lyrics. The quintet is in good company for this bill with Denver’s Allout Helter and Targets. The former shares some of the thrash sound of the latter and a bit of the grindcore edge of the latter.
Who:Kid Astronaut w/Kayla Marque, Dylan Streight, Shalom Dubas When: Wednesday, 12.12, 7 p.m. Where: Globe Hall Why: Jon Shockness is moving to London soon to explore what the wider world of music outside of Denver and outside the United States has to offer his eclectic and considerable talent. He was once a member of the late great hip-hop group Air Dubai and a graduate of Denver School of the Arts where he recently told Colorado Public Radio he was able to be taken seriously even as a young artist, providing a solid foundation for his efforts sine. In 2018, as Kid Astronaut, Shockness released the project’s debut full-length, the sultry, powerful and imaginative Full Moon.