I wasn't sure Torche could top Meanderthal, but, then again, why did I ever doubt this merry band of poppy doom metal professors? Meanderthal, while amazing, seems slight and short compared to Harmonicraft. Each and every song on Harmonicraft is excellent, and nary a few seconds pass by without another hook cramming itself into your mind. Torche is the catchiest truly heavy band of all time, and Harmonicraft is their signature statement to date. "Kicking" is the best Torche song yet, a perfect summer metal anthem. "In Pieces" shows off some Houdini and Stoner Witch era Melvins influences to great effect. Back to back burners "Snakes Are Charmed" and "Sky Trials" sound like High On Fire performing in neon bathing suits at a beach bar under palm trees (ok, not a pleasant mental image if you've seen Matt Pike shirtless lately, but it's a decent METAL comparison, musically speaking). Let's not forget that all these songs are short as hell, by and large. But before you know it, you can't stop humming the main riff to a song that's 1:18 long. File under "heavy metal songwriting genius."
Steve Brooks absolutely kills the vocals on this record. His voice soars and his choruses are deadly - "Kicking" and "Roaming" and "Kiss Me Dudely" just cannot be removed from the brain once listened to. The end of the record, while as perfect as the rest of it, also happens to be very encouraging. The achingly gorgeous shoegaze of "Solitary Traveler" (again, so short, yet packs so much punch) and the deft krautrock nods in the instrumental title track show that this band isn't set on one thing, and will continue to grow and refine their sound. I really, really hope they pursue more songs in the vein of "Harmonicraft" on future releases because it a) sounds nothing like the Torche I know and love and b) sounds nothing like any other heavy metal band out there. I love being challenged by a band I'm already strongly attached to, because it sounds like they're challenging each other. Album closer "Looking On" assures those fans who've been there from the beginning that Torche will never abandon the doom metal aesthetic (glory be to the power of the riff). They're going to keep getting better at it, album by album - what a wonderful, inspiring way to close out a perfect record.
It would be wrong not to mention the packaging. Stunningly original artwork (incorporating multiple cityscapes) that makes me smile and laugh and fits the (usually) bright, summery metal music within so well. The clear LP version came with a lollipop style turntable cover. This was definitely my favorite physical music product of 2012.