Louder Introduces: Torchbearer
It is often said that life imitates art, yet art is just as much a product of our life experiences. The struggles we face, as well as our crowning glories, all go on to shape who we become as people, and as a result, how we convey our thoughts, ideas and messages out into the world. For hardcore punks Torchbearer, their collective years of playing and touring in their previous outfits, Blowgoat and Collapse, as well as their personal experiences of the horror and fear that permeates much of current society, have all fed in to their impassioned new project, and the resulting EP 'Against the Tide'.
'Torchbearer is 4 passionate musicians.' states guitarist Ollie Gould 'The reason we’re alive is to connect with people through our music. You can’t do that without a record out. This band was started when my previous band Blowgoat ended. Blowgoat had a good run, we were signed to Saviour Management and toured Europe a bunch of times. We were coming out of South Wales but when it had to end I wanted to move to London because I felt like South Wales couldn’t offer me anything more. Mo (bass) was already living here, so the event that sparked it all was me arriving in London fresh from the Blowgoat split, calling up Mo who I knew was a sick bass player and a friend from back home already in London. Scott is also a friend of Mo’s from back home and we found Andy on the internet. Once you have a band you need a record. Hence the creation of Against The Tide.'
'“Against the Tide” is a document of a band who have gone through some pretty lean times and come out swinging for the fences.' adds vocalist Andy Mansell. 'On this release we really pushed ourselves as musicians and song writers to show the world who we are.'
A sentiment that is clearly echoed on the record itself. 'Against the Tide's five tracks boast a huge range of refrains and motifs that are melded together by the emotionally astute, candid nature in which they are explored. This, as Andy explains, means searching for deeper emotional truths beyond the baseless anger which arises so naturally when dealing with heavy genres of music. 'We try to show light and shade in our music and lyrics. When we started the band, I was consciously avoiding writing “angry” lyrics that can be seen as a stereotype in our genre. However, in order to write lyrics I believed in I realised I had to address a range of issues and emotions that aren’t always positive. Sometimes hearing an angry song can be cathartic, so I won’t shy away from it anymore.'. Away from the lyrics, for Ollie, the decision to focus on channelling their creative thought processes through the kaleidoscope of the 'metal' genre filter was instantaneous. 'My motivation to make metal music is my love of riffs.', he plainly admits. 'Riffs are fucking awesome & I have to get them out of me. I don’t know, I can’t really explain it. I’m just riff-obsessed and I don’t know why. I probably demo 5 songs a month on average.'
Despite having a plethora of material at their disposal, the band selected just five of those demos for this new release- and leading the charge was their first single, the recently released 'Paralysed'. 'It has one of the tastiest riffs on the record and the standout chorus / hook.' commented Ollie, when asked about choosing the single to begin their crusade with. 'It’ll grip people and they’ll come to the shows. This will be realising our goal of connecting with people through our music. Jack Longman was at the helm producing and really helped us take it further as well. Adding layers of vocals in the bridges and stuff like that really adds to the track.'
'I think we knew quite early on it was a special song with catchy hooks and relatable lyrics.' adds Andy 'It was an obvious choice for a video.'
Said video has already gained the band significant interest, both from the media as well as the public at large. Statistically, Ollie in particular is well aware of the single's commercial success. 'We dropped a video from our previous EP 2 years 7 months ago and it has 1.4k Facebook video views. The video for Paralysed dropped 2 weeks ago and already has 1.5k Facebook video views.' Yet it is also the gratification from those affected by their music on an emotional level that has come as almost more of a surprise to the quartet 'Our peers in other bands have gotten in touch to say they’re feeling it and we’ve had more pick up than we expected form the initial press release so it’s exciting. We’re looking forward to getting the whole thing out on July 12th'. For Andy, those dual markers for measuring a track's impact are also in his sights: 'The single’s been on the radio a couple of times and it’s going down great while the video is getting lots of plays online. The fans can hear the progression of our sound and are into it.'
That sound is one of reality. The innate humanity that underlies Torchbearer's work is what makes it so wonderfully resonant, and no track encompasses this more effectively than closing track, and the band's titular track, 'Torchbearer'. Lyrically, it draws on the horrors of the London Borough Market attacks just over two years ago, in which eight people were killed and a further 48 were injured. After relocating to London to begin work on Torchbearer's inception, the attacks hit particularly close to home for lyricist Andy. 'The victims of the attacks could easily have been us, our friends or our family,' he comments 'so it’s incredibly personal matter for us, we felt it deeply. I didn’t consciously sit down and decide to write a song about it the morning after the attacks, I just wrote down my thoughts and that became the opening lines.'
Organic progression and natural development was a common theme throughout the record's creation. Thematically, the tracks almost seem to grow and develop across the record, beginning with feelings of being overwhelmed and downtrodden on ‘Drown’, through to a message of hope flickering at the close of ‘Torchbearer’. Beautifully crafted though that progression may appear, Ollie insists that 'It was free and organic. Andy receives the demos without vocals from us and writes about what he’s feeling or going through at the time. This is what determines the themes present in our songs.'. When it comes to craftsmanship, however, it is not all a happy accident that such a cohesive piece of art has been created here. 'Having said that,' Ollie continues, 'when we sat down to decide the track order we came up with an order that creates a journey thematically, as well as sonically in fact. So we didn’t set out to achieve theme development, we created freely as we always do but we did notice it afterwards and set the order so that the themes take you on a journey. You can also hear how the tracks get heavier as the record progresses which I think is cool. We realised after we ended up with the five tracks that there was an opportunity to create something that develops in theme and takes you on a journey dynamically as the record progresses and we thought that was cool, so we went with it.'
'The EP wasn’t written as one concept, we chose the best songs we had written over the last year or so.' Andy chimes in. 'I think the development of themes became apparent when we listened back to all of the songs and we consciously arranged the tracks in a way that best reflected that.'
Despite the evident levels of cerebreality and creativity that fuels Torchbearer's musical output, like many who choose the largely unpredictable life of a musician, particularly under the even less stable 'alternative' umbrella, the band faced some opposition from those in their life, worried about their future stability. While having experience on their side does help mitigate their inhibitions in this regard 'I’m 32 so I don’t really give a fuck what anyone thinks about my music taste, neither should anyone actually.' comments Ollie, candidly. 'However, my message to anyone who experiences people giving them shit for making metal is if you’re passionate about it they can do one. If they love you, they should be supportive of you whatever you choose to be passionate about. It’s your identity.'
A sentiment which is shared by bandmate Andy. 'At the end of the day your family probably just want what they think is best for you. Any job in a creative industry will make them uneasy because there’s very little financial stability and an insane amount of competition. I think the best thing you can do is show that you’re taking it seriously, not just getting wasted and going to shows, but spending time perfecting your craft and researching how you’re going to market your music.'
Despite being now fully committed to taking on this journey with Torchbearer, casting one eye back at the road previously travelled provides ample opportunity for reflection. Drummer Scott Harris has shared some huge stages as a part of his previous projects, including touring with the legendary Anthrax. However, despite the shift down in the size of the stages Torchbearer are gracing, for Scott, it doesn't feel like a step backwards. 'This music feels closer to home for me. I've always been about the groove and awesome riffs.' he says 'Torchbearer gives me more space to express my drumming. Making music with these boys happens so easily and fast. It's a huge benefit when you gel with a band and you know exactly what feels right, just bouncing riffs and beats off each other, off-the-cuff in the rehearsal space. I can already see the music taking off before we even start. I've always been one to follow gut feeling.'
Gut feelings are the prevailing ideology of Torchbearer's musical output. Tackling these complex themes, while also producing killer riffs and groove-inspired melodies is a delicate balancing act, however ultimately it is raw feeling and unsullied connection that is the overarching drive behind the band's music and live shows. 'We want people to know someone else is going through what they went through.', concludes Ollie, 'We want people to come to our show and experience something awesome with us. That thing is kinship and connecting with other likeminded people through music.'
Backing his bandmate to the hilt is Andy 'This is music for everyone, it’s not just for hardcore kids or metal heads. We can’t wait to share it with you all live, these shows are going to be high energy, high intensity and super sweaty!'
Exactly as it should be.
'Against the Tide' is due for release on July 12th as a self-release.
Check out the video for the band's latest single, 'Paralysed', below:
Torchbearer have a few select dates announced for the remainder of the summer- dates can be found below and tickets are available here:
26.07.2019 – London, The Old Blue Last (w/ Chaos Reigns) 03.08.2019 – Liverpool, The Zanzibar 10.08.2019 – Cardiff, Fuel Rock Club (w/ Dead At 27)
23.08.2019 - Kingston, Fighting Cocks (w/ Iron Duke)