Torche, Black Cobra, Clouds

"Post-metal" is not a universally accepted term, but it is useful to describe a real aesthetic phenomenon that began with Neurosis in the early '90s and has been developed by bands like Isis and Jesu: the creation of metal-rooted music that replaces the speed and violence of traditional metal with something more thoughtful and emotionally rich. Though they've only been around since 2005, Miami quartet Torche stands a good chance of becoming pivotal figures in this movement. The building blocks of their most recent album, Meanderthal, are the dark guitar sounds and middling tempos popularized by the Melvins, but its song structures and style betray a heavy post-hardcore influence, and it occasionally ventures into post-rock and even math-rock. It's a strikingly diverse album, full of musical curiosity, but with a consistent tone and sense of flow. Torche haven't abandoned rock, the way committedly avant-garde post-metal acts like SunnO))) and Asva have, and the stomping hardcore of the band's more melodic songs can be downright anthemic — seeming to advance the thesis that the maturation of metal's heart need not come at the expense of its other muscles. San Francisco's Black Cobra deliver a powerful hybrid of punk, grindcore and death metal that sounds something like the devil's powerviolence, while Boston's Clouds open with impressively heavy, if occasionally somewhat conservative, hard rock.

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Daniel Mee