TVD Live: Torche, Wrong, Jeff Carey,
and Black Clouds at
DC9, 3/29

One month after the release of their brilliant fourth full-length album, Restarter, Miami’s Torche have continued to defy being categorized into a subgenre of metal. Despite typically being labeled as “stoner” or “sludge,” their game plan is simple—do whatever the fuck they want—and it has worked out pretty well so far. On Sunday, Torche brought an eclectic cast of bands to the District to share the stage with them at DC9.

The eight o’clock hour arrived and DC’s own Black Clouds took the stage. Awash in blue light, the tranquil intro of “We Begged For The Floods” filled the room and quickly shifted gears, the tone of the music turning urgent and thunderous. There was not one spare inch of room on the diminutive DC9 stage made all the more crowded by the lighting rigs used by Black Clouds throughout the set. With each song, it becomes apparent that the lights are as integral to their live experience as the music, setting tones as gentle or as harsh as the music calls for.

All three members were in perfect synchronicity with one another. Drummer Jimmy Rhodes hammered out the rhythms from center stage while Justin Horenstein doubled down on guitar and keyboards. The mix of ambient soundscapes with an aggressively heavy post-rock aura work well with each other, and the sheer amount of soul and emotion conveyed by the instrumental trio was astounding.

Bassist Ross Hurt, dragging a bow across his strings on the beginning of “The Lodge,” emitted sounds not unlike a whale call from the deep. Black Clouds closed out their set with “Santorum Sunday School,” which includes a prerecorded spoken word diatribe from Clutch singer Neil Fallon. The stage was bathed in harsh red light as the music crescendoed to a dramatic climax, with Fallon emphatically proclaiming, “You’ve spent too long on the material world, too long in the world of flesh, and you can’t see beyond that.” An intense ending to a fantastic set.

After a brief break for some fresh air, I descended the stairs from the rooftop bar to a din of noise best described as a floor buffer. On stage, where the noise was coming from, Jeff Carey was beginning his set. Standing alone with only a metal stand that supported a keypad, drum machine, and a video game joystick, Carey unleashed a torrent of industrial noise that sounded like a bad dream after an absinthe bender that may have involved Throbbing Gristle playing at the site of a reactor meltdown.

Squeals, violent robotic roars, and electrical crackles poured from the speakers to the dumbfounded audience. Violently rocking back and forth as he assaulted the controls at his hands, this was possibly more of a sonic art piece than musical performance. The level of creativity involved was intricate, but I have to be honest…I really didn’t know what to make of his brand of free-form electro-noise. The audience was a bit stunned but cordial and appreciative as his time on stage drew to an end.

Next on the bill was Miami, Florida’s Wrong. In a nutshell, Wrong sounds like what Helmet would sound like if Helmet had the energy of youth today. Wrong’s energy and stage presence were awesome and aggressive, but the huge, undeniable similarities to Helmet, for me, were just too big to ignore. Hearing their obvious talent, I was left longing for them to have their own distinct sound, not a clone of another heralded band from the past. The songs resembling Helmet were interspersed throughout the set with raucous, Discharge-like hardcore punk songs that made the frizzy mop of vocalist/guitarist Eric Hernandez practically stand on end.

At last, Torche took the stage. Vocalist/guitarist Steve Brooks greeted the crowd and proclaimed joyously that it was his birthday. Opening with the blistering “Piraña,” then slowing down with the fantastically sludgy “Sandstorm,” Torche were sonically perfect in every way but one—Brook’s vocals were inaudible over the din of the instruments. This was very unfortunate as Brooks’ vocals are a key element of Torche’s signature sound and disappointingly the problem was not remedied.

The band continued on, playing almost every song from Restarter, with older tracks from their previous three albums mixed in throughout the set. Each song was unique and breathed a life of its own, whether it was the low, churning “Minions,” the wild, frenetic “Sky Trials,” or the catchy, Adam Ant-like “Loose Men,” that even had Brooks dancing as he played. Had the vocals been a bit louder, the fantastic harmonies between Brooks and guitarist Andrew Elstner would have really shone through. They sounded great despite the volume, but the harmonies in Torche’s songs are too good not to be heard with maximum effect.

The rhythm section was on point with bassist Jonathan Nuñez front and center, while drummer Rick Smith absolutely punished his drum set. Kudos to Smith who was pulling double-duty on this tour, also playing drums with opener Wrong. Talking with him afterward, I commented that he must be pretty tired, to which he smiled and replied, “Eh, I could go for a round three.”

Standing close to the stage, you couldn’t help but notice the unique guitar and bass of Brooks and Nuñez, respectively. It was the first time I had seen a band using aluminum instruments and the tone was mind-blowing. The band charged through the mostly instrumental title track, “Restarter,” a track that is somewhat simple and repetitive musically, but it works in both sound and emotion. The driving bass takes the guitar by the hand and travels down the same path, wonderfully mirroring each other as they soar through the song.

Things began to draw to an end, and Torche closed out their set with a resounding extended version of “Annihilation Affair.” After a brief recess, the band returned and finished out the night with an encore of “Charge of the Brown Recluse” from their debut album and finished things off with “Harmonslaught,” a bonus track on Restarter.

TORCHE

WRONG

JEFF CAREY

BLACK CLOUDS

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