Oldschool Sunday: TORCH [New ‘Reignited’ Album]

Article By: Pat ‘Riot’ Whitaker ‡ Edited By: Leanne Ridgeway

It was 1980 in Eskilstuna, Sweden when a trio of musicians – drummer Steve Streaker and guitarists Claus Wildt and Chris J. First – found themselves without a band.

The one they had been in up to this point, Black Widow, had just hit a wall with the departure of its singer / bassist. Undaunted, the three soon recruited some new guys, bassist Ian Greg and singer Stefan Wedlund, and TORCH was officially born. At least for a time, because after a grueling rehearsal schedule and two live performances in 1981, Wedlund lost his voice. He bowed out of the band and they quickly found another singer, Dan Dark, a man compact in stature but massive in vocals and attitude onstage.

With Mr. Dark on board, everything seemed to be falling into place for TORCH as they continued to build their local fanbase. Heavily influenced by Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, Thin Lizzy, Judas Priest, and Van Halen, plus the NWOBHM movement, TORCH became a force to be reckoned with. Added to that, the quintet lived and breathed two simple, three-word mottos that summed up everything they were about: “Faster, Heavier, Louder” and “more is more.”

With loyal, die-hard fans pushing them onward, TORCH began the arduous quest for a record label deal. Heavy metal was not a genre with much interest from labels in Sweden at that time, but the guys recorded demos and sent them out. This process went on for a while, yet eventually, their music caught the interest of producer Thomas Sunmo. In turn, he convinced a record company to finance recording an EP for test purposes, to find out if there was a market for TORCH music before signing the band for a proper album. With Sunmo handling production, the band recorded five songs live in the studio, adding vocals and solos afterward. This process took all of one week and everyone was excited by the time the songs were completed and everything wrapped up… but a problem loomed still yet.

TORCH found it hard to decide on an image for the EP’s album cover and this was made even worse when the label presented their idea. The company suggested an image with several laughing rats and a mechanical cat looming in the background, even providing a mock-up of their idea. The band was less than thrilled when they saw it actually conceptualized, made even worse by their name mistakenly shown as “The Torch.” After many complaints and possibly some threatening too, the band convinced the label to ditch the rats and the “The.” In 1982, the debut release from TORCH, the ‘Fire Raiser!!‘ EP was issued through Sweden’s Tandan Records.

Despite its being a low budget recording, sales of the EP exploded and the first pressing of it sold out almost immediately. Suddenly it seemed as if TORCH were an international act, as fan mail from around the world poured in. The EP was a hit and opened a lot of doors for the band, including the one at Tandan, as the label scrambled to sign TORCH for a proper release. Once done, the band took to the road, played crowded gigs, and wrote new songs when time allowed.

 

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The following year, 1983, saw TORCH stack the deck by sticking to the same formula that created the EP. Once again, they entered Popstudio with producer Thomas Sunmo where they recorded all the basic tracks live, adding vocals and solos later. There are some differences from the EP experience though; the band had a bigger budget and more studio time. They were also able to utilize better facilities for the post-production of the album, having it mixed at Studio Bastun and mastered at Polar. However, in true TORCH tradition, there were issues again with the album cover and title. ‘Sinister Eyes‘ was the intended title of the debut full-length, with the idea being for the cover to contain a beautiful woman with “sinister eyes”. Needless to say, the band was shocked and appalled at what was presented by the label.

There was no beautiful woman and in her stead, some “blue thing” favoring the alien race from the movie Avatar, the Na’vi. As if that was not bad enough, the being looked as if it were “about to be hit by a car” as TORCH put it. But the slights didn’t cease there, for TORCH outright rejected this version of the LP, for what good it did them because the folks at Tandan did not change a thing. They celebrated with the artist that created the image (as well as the one used on the EP) and TORCH claimed if you look at the cover closely, you can see stains from spilled whiskey. Oh, and there is one other slight little thing… they forgot to put the album’s title on the cover of the damn thing.

Despite these very Spinal Tap-like snafus, the debut long-player now known as the self-titled ‘Torch‘ album was released in 1983. Like the EP, it too became a smash with fans of heavy metal from around the world and following its release, TORCH embarked upon a Swedish tour with Axewitch and Silver Mountain. Several other tours and many live shows were played during this period as TORCH became a household name for countless hordes of metalheads globally.

Everyone knows the second album of any band is an extremely crucial record and there’s even a curse associated with it. The first one is easy in comparison, a band has years to write for their first album, to try the songs out live and fine-tune them. For a second album they’re expected to outdo the first album – but they usually only have a couple of months to write the material. When it came time for a second album, TORCH knew they wanted their music to take a new, much heavier direction. To add to any possible pressure, the label told the band they had big plans concerning them, with the main goal being their signing to a major label. This would mean a bigger budget, big-shot producer, copious amounts of booze and illicit inspiration, whatever it took.

But it would take a few songs to use to attract such a producer and for shopping the band around to labels. TORCH basically had nothing ready at the time, yet reluctantly agreed to this game plan and recorded the “skeletons” to three new songs. These were not meant for public consumption in their incomplete state and the record company ensured the band they would never be released. What do you think the odds are that the label kept their word? The three partial songs became the ‘Unreleased Tracks‘ EP, released so the label might recover some money, as they explained it to the guys in TORCH.

No big-shot producer ever signed on for the next album, and besides, if it ain’t broke… So, with the faithful Thomas Sunmo once again, he and TORCH entered a better place than previous recordings were captured, Db Studios. Having more time to work on things, it was decided to record all of the instruments separately, a move that later on they felt ultimately hurt them. Doing so led to the loss of the “live feeling” on previous output, and then there were the songs. Well, not the songs… literally. TORCH did not have enough finished songs to fill a proper album, and even some of the ones that were used seemed a bit subpar, as the band has put it many times. On the plus side, they had recruited a special guest to appear on this record but after a night of heavy drinking in Stockholm, Dan Dark bit their guest in the balls. Whether this event led to the cancellation or not is unknown, all that we do know is drummer Tommy Lee refused to appear on the album as planned.

With disappointment after disappointment piled up, TORCH decided to avoid one of the reoccurring pitfalls of albums past. Opting to design their own album cover, the band created an image relative to the record’s title. Having chosen that to be ‘Electrikiss‘, Dan Dark built a mock electric chair, procured a model named Mia, and a shot of a strapped-in him engaging in a sparking kiss with her became the cover. ‘Electrikiss‘ was released in 1984 by the Tandan subsidiary, Sword Records, just as TORCH finished a European tour with Warlock.

Though this album sold moderately well, it was nowhere near the numbers of the previous output. TORCH spent nearly all of the next two years touring, including a very short Nordic tour with Motörhead. Short, because TORCH was dropped from the bill after just the first gig, the outcome after drummer Steve Streaker trashed his drum kit at the end of their last song. This made the sound guy go ballistic and he chased Steve around the backstage area. When the technician later demanded so, TORCH was kicked off the tour.

It was clear things began to go downhill for TORCH, while their over-the-top partying became unmanageable. Also clear was the apparent loss of interest in the band by its singer, Dan Dark, and in 1986, he was the first to quit. The rest of the band attempted to carry on by welcoming demo tapes from singers and auditioned many of them, but no one seemed to really click. Soon, Claus Wildt announced his move to Los Angeles, so TORCH regrouped for one final show at the very club they played their first and promptly disbanded after it.

Twenty-three years passed and in 2009, a “new” TORCH release came in the form of the independently issued ‘Dark Sinner‘. Comprised of 15 songs, 13 of which are re-recorded versions of earlier material, alongside two new songs, this was not the TORCH of past glories. Singer Dan Dark was the only returning member, while the remaining roster was bassist Alex Jonsson, guitarist Tomi Peltonen, and drummer Kristian Huotari. It is not clear whether this version of the band toured or did much of anything outside of releasing this semi-retrospective record.

 

TORCH (Now)

 

Then, in 2013, it happened! Four of the founding members of TORCH Dan Dark, Ian Greg, Steve Streaker, and Chris J. First – brought their old friend and guitarist Håkky into the band. They played a hugely successful comeback gig on one of the popularly growing rock cruises and, in turn, convinced them the time was right for TORCH to blaze once again. More gigs came and went, eventually culminating at their massively well-received set at 2018’s Sweden Rock Festival. But TORCH was not satisfied with just living in the past.

In 2019, the band started writing and recording new material, the work resulted in the first new TORCH songs in 35 years. These will soon see the light of day as the fourth studio album from TORCH, ‘Reignited‘, produced by the Grammy-nominated producer Jacob Hansen (Pyramaze, U.D.O., Pretty Maids, Anubis Gate). The album artwork and tracklist of ‘Reignited‘ are included here and it will be released September 25th from Metalville Records.

 

Tracklist:

01. Knuckle Duster
02. Collateral Damage
03. All Metal, No Rust
04. Feed The Flame
05. In The Dead Of Night
06. Cradle To Grave
07. Snake Charmer
08. Intruder
09. To The Devil His Due

 

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