Like the prehistoric man that the album's title is playfully derived from, Torche have evolved to a higher state of being, transforming into something that's similar to their ancestors, but improved. Just as it was with singer/guitarist Steve Brooks' former band, Floor, Torche have always been a band that carefully balanced melody with crushing heaviness, creating an uplifting brand of heavy metal -- doom as seen through rose-colored glasses. On their second full-length album, Meanderthal, Torche stay true to their trademark sound, but take their songwriting to a new level. All the heaviness that's expected from the band is here. The guitars, droning and impossibly low, cover everything with a thick sonic blanket of major-key riffs. Combined with Brooks' soaring vocals, the two work in tandem to create a sound that is both massive and triumphant. "Grenades" is a prime example of the genre-defying harmony at work, featuring a blend of melodic pop and sludge metal that takes the best qualities of both genres and exalts them. "Without a Sound" feels reminiscent of Big Business-era Melvins, with thoughtful, deliberate chugging that marches ahead at a stalwart pace and vocals that wouldn't sound out of place with King Buzzo behind the microphone. The titular track, "Meanderthal," is a monolithic testament to Torche's trademark "bomb string," shuddering and explosive, like the way an earthquake might sound in slow motion. "Sundown" is the album's real champion and a prime example of the evolution of Torche's songwriting. Instead of a constant barrage of buzzing guitars, the group opts for a more intricate, atmospheric approach. The guitars weave around each other during the verses, playing in the empty spaces and setting up the listener for one of the heaviest and catchiest choruses in the Torche discography. With their sophomore album, Torche have managed to step out of the shadow of their benchmark debut, creating something that not only shows the evolution of a band, but the evolution of heavy music. Meanderthal is an album that exposes the listener to the potential beauty in heavy metal and demonstrates the limitless potential of pop music.
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AllMusic Review by Gregory Heaney