Monday, April 30, 2012

Forgotten Gems: Torch-Torch (iTunes Digital "Bonus Track Version")

Alright, this will take a little bit of explaining. With this particular Forgotten Gems I've opted to cover the early eighties power metal act Torch and their 1983 self-titled album. Now, this heavy metal band hailed from Sweden and were formed in 1979. In 1982 the band released a self-titled 5-track EP. Then in 1983 came this album, also under the name of "Torch". In Germany it was released under the title “Warlock” with the same tracks, but when it came time for the eventual American re-issue of "Torch" on Metal Blade, also titled "Warlock" after the album's simple (and yet effect) opening track, for what ever reason the label decided to cut out the track "Beyond The Threshold Of Pain". Why? No idea. But, for those keeping track at home that's two Torch release with the same name and two versions of the 1983 album, only with different track listings. How's that was some epic confusion? What is it with some heavy metal bands (or maybe it is just the record labels themselves?) that they feel the need to confuse fans? Anyway, as I said this 10-track LP was released on Tandan and, while it lacks the driving force of the band's earlier EP, is still top-notch and surprisingly heavy for the early eighties. Before I go any further with this article (and since I'm sure everyone is completely lost by now anyhow!) the version I plan to talk about today is digital (available for download off of iTunes) and includes the complete "Torch" EP and "Torch" LP. As well it tacks on the group's 12" EP, "Bad Girls". This 3-track EP was released in limited quantities (1500) and includes songs that were originally recorded by the band for their "Torch" LP. So, in all there is 18 tracks. Now, since the original album is going for serious bucks (on both LP and CD) this is one of the rare times when I just say go digital and don't worry about it. The music is what counts the most right? Especially if the album in question has as goofy a cover as this one does! Then again so does the band's second offering, 1984's "Electrikiss", which features not only a guy awaiting electrocution, but for some reason a hot model as well! With that said Torch are on of those bands that didn't make much of a dent on the scene the first time around, but in the years since have become a bit of a favorite among tape traders and collectors. One of the reasons is the fact that Torch were a smashing mixture of early eighties power metal and NWOBHM. The band had a sinister and mean edge without losing any of the eighties charm that makes the genre so much fun to begin with. Time and time again this extended album ends up resorting to forceful heavy metal that was slightly ahead of the time. As a whole Torch was a band that had seemingly all the pieces together to truly excel. For Torch it was just wrong place, wrong time and wrong record label. Back to the actual band though. Vocalist Dan Dark is more than capable of covering a lot of ground for Torch. He does a scratchy Rob Halford on the almost thrash metal track “Watcher of the Night” and then is able to turn around and pull of the sound's of a simpler (or if you will more raw) Lizzy Borden on “Gladiator” (an admitted filler track). Meanwhile we have the pair of Claus Wild and Chris First. These two guitarists feed off of each other. Tracks like "Beauty and the Beast", “Rage Age” and “Beyond the Threshold of Pain” offer deadly riffs with enough force to make things both interesting and intense. Bass player Ian Gregstop and drummer Steve Streaker are the back bone of Torch and help keep everything in check. The two of them anchor this formidable heavy metal band and help to keep things rolling along at a nice steady pace. Sometimes the band sounds right out of the same scene that gave us Judas Priest, Tokyo Blade, Saxon, Iron Maiden, Cobra and Blitzkrieg. Other times they had more in common with the early 80's metal rumblings of bands like Dark Wizard, Atlain, Griffin, Lions Breed and Ruthless. In other words good old fashioned power metal with hints of speed. Heavy enough to almost be thrash, but still rooted in plain (but never boring!) heavy metal. "Torch" is a fun album and requires nothing from the listener other than time and a wiliness to sit back and enjoy straight ahead, uncomplicated metal. Of the band's two full-length albums I prefer "Torch". It just has that little something extra to make me grin ear to ear whenever I play it. So, seeing as you can get 18 tracks for only $9.99 on iTunes why not take this extended version of "Torch" out for a spin? If you love eighties metal as much as I do or you want to see the humble birthplace of the more modern power metal/thrash then Torch should warrant some investigation.

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