Sound — 10
Meanderthal is Torche's second full-length release, released in 2008. The band is commonly associated with the sludge genre, but unlike most sludge, their music is not accompanied by harsh, almost hardcore vocals. Their singing gives the music an up-beat feel, and they utilize harmonies very well on the album. Torche has two guitarists, a bassist, and a drummer. The two guitarists pound out amazingly crushing, yet catchy riffs throughout the record. While this is going on, the bassist and drummer lock to each other, providing the foundation for the vocals and the guitar. The drummer is also allowed to expand, using more complicated beats and rhythms that are common in the genre, adding a lot more energy to the songs. Most of the songs have a quick tempo, but some, like the closing title track, have a slow, powerful tempo akin to some of the earlier sludge artists. The songs with a faster tempo can be quite catchy, especially with the vocal hook in "Healer". This album mainly features short songs, 10 of the songs are under 3 and a half minutes, two of the remaining three are just over 4 minutes long, and the longest one, "Amnesian", is almost 6 and a half minutes long. Track listing: 01. Triumph of Venus - 1:44 (Instrumental) 02. Grenades - 2:53 03. Pirana - 1:33 04. Sandstorm - 2:20 05. Speed of the Nail - 1:41 06. Healer - 2:08 07. Across the Shields - 3:04 08. Sundown - 3:18 09. Little Champion - 0:35 (Instrumental) 10. Without a Sound - 2:06 11. Fat Waves - 4:33 12. Amnesian - 6:26 13. Meanderthal - 4:00 (Instrumental) Total: 36:13 Produced by Kurt Ballou (guitarist of Converge) and Torche. Band members: Steve Brooks: Guitars, Vocals Juan Montoya: Guitars Jonathan Nunez: Bass Rick Smith: Drums Kurt Ballou: Additional Guitars Ballou being a guest artist. The band also released a music video for "Across the Shields", which features the band all crammed into a suit resembling a male two-legged brown monster who has quite large genitals. The band calls the creature the "Cockmonster".
Lyrics — 9
It was hard to digest the lyrics of this album, as singing isn't usually a very big priority to sludge artists, and because the band chose not to print the lyrics along with the CD. For what I can decipher, there are some pretty normal things involved, such as relationships and dealing with past issues. The singers have a weird way of delivering the lyrics, their singing is almost like a drone, the words aren't very clearly articulated, but it's not like the are using distorted vocals. This could be a strategy the artists used to pull the listener away from the lyrics, or maybe to pique more curiosity. The band did a great job of blending in some instrumentals in their album, though I do wish they either printed the lyrics or sang in a way that was easier to comprehend. You can figure out most of it, but there are still some gaps.
Overall Impression — 10
Meanderthal can be a great entry point for someone who is interested in sludge, but doesn't really like the harsh vocals commonly associated with the genre. The catchy vocals make it something that's accessible to almost everyone, and the rest of the music can be music to just about anybody's ear. Notable songs in my opinion are the opener, "Triumph of Venus", "Healer", and "Grenades". "Triumph of Venus" opens up the album amazingly, with powerful riffs and amazing leads. "Healer" and "Grenades" are great examples of catchy songs in the album, they should not disappoint at all. Though if you do buy this, I'd advise to mainly listen to the whole album all at once, as the songs flow quite nicely with each other. It is an incredible album that I have found myself listening to quite a bit, probably in the top 15 most listened albums by me, and for good reason. I would just like a lyric sheet! This CD is pretty hard to come by, so if you see it, buy it!