Torche, XOYO, 16th September 2012

Following the sad announcement that their former record label – Hydra Head – is to fold you could forgive Torche for arriving at this Shoreditch basement in a subdued mood but that’s not the case in XOYO tonight. Touring this year’s taut, to the point Harmonicraft album Torche are armed with the songs required to motivate themselves and the Sunday night crowd with a collective eye on Monday morning.

Generally, if we accept that black metal is a genre predicated on exclusivity then Torche’s groovy doom-pop is the polar opposite: all about open arms and inclusiveness. They’re never too cool or obscure – witness singer/guitarist and Toadfish from Neighbours lookalike Steve Brooks’ Hawaiian shirt. Nice.

After the support band’s bathed in blue light performance of Dead Meadow by the way of early Waters’-era Floyd psychedelic meandering Torche’s one-two opening combo of Letting Go and Kicking and flashing lights is like a dose of smelling salts. The first half of their sixty minute set is devoted to short, sharp blasts of intricate but immediate hard rock from Harmonicraft and 2008’s Meanderthal including a blistering Triumph of Venus and the mini-epic that is Reverse Inverted.

Mid-set Torche show they still can still get low and slow following on from the fast-paced opening with the crunching lurch of Harmonicraft and the piston firing Sandstorm with bass player Jonathan Nunez leading the charge from the front of the stage. His bald pate starting to drown in sweat as heads bob in unison to the elephantine grooves from the stage to the back of the room. It is here, however, where things get a bit monolithic as the snappier songs of Torche’s present give way to the heavier leanings of their past losing some momentum in the process. In the end tonight’s show has been like Sven-Goran Eriksson’s frequent description of the England football team’s performances: ‘1st half good; 2nd half not so good” but what a first half.

First published on RoomThirteen.

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