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.”
What:Sheer Mag w/Tweens and The Born Readies When: Thursday, 09.12, 7 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: Sheer Mag sounds like a band that grew up listening mostly to Thin Lizzy, 70s power pop and AC/DC but invented punk rock without ever having heard it. It’s new record A Distant Call finds the band having refined some of its raw power without blunting it.
Friday | September 13
What:Soulless Maneater, Sweetness Itself, Sad Bug When: Friday, 09.13, 8 p.m. Where: Mutiny Information Café Why: Sad Bug is sort of a neo-emo pop punk band. Sweetness Itself might come off as a bit of a fuzzy psychedelic band but sometimes Cyrena Rosati’s guitar work verves into bendy waves akin to something you might hear from My Bloody Valentine via No Joy. Which is to say gloriously loud and noisy but also tied to tight songwriting and accessible hooks. Soulless Maneater is what happens when you give doom metal more of an abrasive edge and more pointed and political lyrics aimed at where a critical eye belongs.
What:Summer Cannibals w/Mr. Atomic and Knuckle Pups When: Friday, 09.13, 8 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: Summer Cannibals have for the past seven years charted a path out of the neo-garage rock that dominated American underground rock for several years. Its own songwriting more fluid and dynamic than just the adolescent release and raw, youthful enthusiasm that was both what was exciting but ultimately limiting and tiresome about the new garage bands. Summer Cannibals didn’t just have a healthy sense of humor but the band also seemed to take seriously its songcraft but without overthinking it. Its new album, 2019’s Can’t Tell Me No is Summer Cannibals in high form with its contrast of melodic vocals, grit, attitude and confessional lyrics.
What:Dub Trio w/Incubus When: Friday, 09.13, 7 p.m. Where: Fillmore Auditorium Why: It shouldn’t work and maybe for some it doesn’t, but Brooklyn’s Dub Trio took inspiration from King Tubby and applied the principles of dub to heavier music in terms of shaping sound, production and signal processing. Surface level, the group comes across like an arty doom band and it has served as part of the backing band for Mike Patton on the 2006 Peeping Tom tour and on its new album The Shape of Jazz to Come, it worked with Buzz Osborne of Melvins fame. But the bass is sculpted in a way to sync up with the sampled and manipulated sounds fed back into the mix for a disorienting yet hypnotic effect. Sure, opening for a pretty famous nü metal band but worth going to see for their set alone.
Saturday | September 14
What:Dub Trio w/Incubus When: Saturday, 09.14, 7 p.m. Where: Fillmore Auditorium Why: For Dub Trio see above on 9.14.
What:Test Dept w/Acidbat, eHpH and DJ Dave Vendetta When: Saturday, 09.14, 7 p.m. Where: Antero Hall (formerly Eck’s Saloon) Why: Test Dept is indeed the legendary early industrial band from London touring through Denver before it performs at the Cold Waves festival in Chicago. Percussion heavy, full, mind-altering assault to the senses in the vein of those early industrial groups of the 80s. Different from but definitely for fans of Einstürzende Neubauten and Crash Worship.
What:Total Trash, Vampire Squids From Hell, Lords of Howling When: Saturday, 09.14, 8 p.m. Where: The People’s Building Why: September’s Get Your Ears Swoll will include “doom surf” band Vampire Squids From Hell, avant-folk Lords of Howling and psychedelic indie rock phenoms Total Trash.
What:Strand of Oaks w/Apex Manor When: Saturday, 09.14, 8 p.m. Where: Globe Hall Why: As Strand of Oaks, Timothy Showalter has had a prolific career writing delicate and thoughtful, introspective, folk-inflected pop songs. One might call it pastoral but by candlelight. There’s an intimacy to Showalter’s songwriting that sets it apart from some other songwriters exploring similar sonic territory. That and Showalter’s attention to the rhythm side of the music so that all parts compliment each other well. His new album, 2019’s Eraserland, was never supposed to happen until some friends convinced him to get back into the studio to write the record and it’s a particularly touching testament to rediscovering the strength to continue on and do what you love even if it feels to you at the time pointless and hopeless. It’s a personal reinvention with music that feels gently reinvigorating as well.
What:KGNU Quarterly Showcase, Smash it Back Edition: Sputnik Slovenia, Little Fyodor & Babushka and The Hinckleys – DJ Andy Z When: Saturday, 09.14, 8 p.m. Where: Lion’s Lair Why: This edition of the KGNU Quaterly showcase features Jim Yelnick of hardcore band Pitch Invasion playing his solo material and probably treating you to some unusual humor. And of course the great, avant-garde punk band Little Fyodor & Babushka will be putting in a, these days, rare appearance and demonstrate how punk can push the boundaries of the songwriting and subject matter while writing incredibly catchy music. There is no fashion victim type stuff with Fyodor because he already looks like an accountant who burned down his office and started a cable access show about underground culture and the impending collapse of civilization.
What:Of Monsters and Men w/Lower Dens When: Monday, 09.16, 6:30 p.m. Where: The Mission Ballroom Why: Icelandic pop band Of Monsters and Men are currently touring in support of its 2019 album Fever Dream and will provide the expansive, emotional, melodic songs made for the larger club setting. Opening the show is experimental dream pop band Lower Dens. The group’s earlier albums were in the realm of dub-inflected post-punk but its newer material, particularly on its new record The Competition, combines its lush melodies with an almost disco flavored adult contemporary sound. Like Jana Hunter and company mined 80s pop music and removed the cheese but kept the solid songwriting and production.
What:Roselit Bone, High Plains Honky and Erika Ryann When: Monday, 09.16, 7 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: Roselit Bone is like a honky tonk, cow boy high desert Gun Club and visually reminiscent of the same. Intense live performances and riveting storytelling. Its new album Crisis Actor is a storybook of American skullduggery, misdeeds and a celebration of life.
Tuesday | September 17
What:Man Man w/GRLwood When: Tuesday, 09.17, 7 p.m. Where: Globe Hall Why: GRLwood from Louisville, Kentucky sound like an emotionally nuanced math-y emo band on its 2018 album Daddy. Though there is a smoldering sensibility to the vocals the band is able to reconcile powerful feelings with actually feeling its hurt and transforming that into a melancholic catharsis that bursts forth in fiery riffs and introspective passages. And it will contrast well with Man Man, the psychedelic art rock band formerly form Philadelphia who made it “indie big” in the 2000s with its ambitious albums and theatrical and bombastic live shows.
What:Hatchie w/Orchin and Slow Caves When: Tuesday, 09.17, 7 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: Hatchie’s 2019 debut full length Keepsake is the rare dream pop offering of late with a keen ear for the low end to give the music some weightiness and drive. Maybe there’s no surprise there since Harriet Pilbeam has played bass and guitar in her musical career up to now and the songwriting on Keepsake reflects an appreciation for a broad spectrum of how the music can stimulate your emotions. It’s breezy in dynamic and Pilbeam’s vocals warmly melodic but the songs always seem to be reaching forward to draw you in.
What:Torche w/Pinkish Black and Green Druid When: Wednesday, 09.18, 7 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: Torche formed in 2004 in Miami and came out of the heavy music underground of the 90s when Steve Brooks and former member Juan Montoya were members of doom/sludge legends Floor. Torche was a different animal and as the band has developed over the years it is difficult to really call it a sludge or doom band, especially with its 2019 album Admission with its sometimes shimmery and gritty melodies, expansive vocal dynamic and sinuous rhythms. The fuzzy drones seem to have more in common with the likes of Swervedriver than what you’re likely to hear on a doom record and yet often enough Torche employs a colossally blunt riff but then sends it spiralling in different trajectories giving the songs a sound like what might happen if a psychedelic metal band left behind its limiting tropes and explored the inherent possibilities of its sound palette.
What:Man Man w/GRLwood When: Wednesday, 09.18, 7 p.m. Where: Globe Hall Why: See above on 9/17 for Man Man and GRLwood.