The music of Torche comes at you with overwhelming forcefulness. The blistering guitar work, the sludge-thick riffs, the hulkingly muscular rhythm section, even the hooks that eschew anthemic power for melodic effectiveness, make a listener feel like a meerkat in the middle of a mammoth stampede: It’s coming, it’s fast, and it will crush you. It’s surprising, then, to hear that singer-guitarist Steve Brooks is a timid fellow.

“[Brooks is] usually a shy guy when it comes to his vocals; he’s not too confident of a singer,” says Torche guitarist Juan Montoya. “He’s much more comfortable on guitar.”

That discomfort could have something to do with the three-year gap between the release of Torche’s self-titled debut and this year’s 13-track Meanderthal. While many heavy bands bang out the release-tour-record-release grind on an almost annual basis, it took longer for Torche – and producer Kurt Ballou (of Converge) – to get the Meanderthal material ready for public consumption.

“When we went into the studio, we only went in with seven or eight songs,” says Montoya. “I don’t think Kurt or Steve were real confident in the direction the record was going at the beginning. The vocals were the main problem, because Steve waits until the last minute to come up with stuff. We come from the school of the Melvins and the Cocteau Twins, where people make up words that don’t really mean anything.”

(Yes, you read correctly: “the school of the Melvins and the Cocteau Twins.”)

“But even with just those [seven or eight] songs ready when we went in, we ended up coming out with 13 songs completed,” continues Montoya. “It came naturally, but a lot of help came from Kurt. He’s really focused and he’s very talented. He really knows what he’s doing and it’s comfortable to work with him. He’s eccentric, but he’s a genius and a madman.”

Springing from the ashes of highly regarded Florida bands Cavity (of which Montoya was a member) and Floor (Brooks’ former band, which counted Montoya as a member in its final days), Torche adds a strong melodic sensibility to the pummeling heaviness and tightly controlled aggression of those two bands. And though Torche was formed in the muck of South Florida and claims legions of homegrown fans throughout the Sunshine State – “Can you mention that every time we play in Orlando it’s been a great show and everyone makes us feel welcome?” asks Montoya – the band now splits its residential allegiances. Montoya and Brooks live in Atlanta, while bassist Jonathan Nuñez and drummer Rick Smith (who also plays in amazing grindcore/crustcore bands Shitstorm and Mehkago N.T.) remain behind in Miami.

Despite the hundreds of miles between their homes, though, the members of Torche are unlikely to become strangers any time soon.

“We just got back from a couple of tours,” says Montoya, “and we just finished the record and now we’re headed out on tour again through the end of the year, so we’re gonna be living with each other every day in a van, so it’s not like we’ll forget one another or anything.”

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