I have not fully recovered from Juan Montoya's departure from TORCHE. Along with Steve Brooks, he spent much of the last 20 years in Miami perfecting their signature doom pop sound, beginning with FLOOR and culminating with the release of TORCHE's Meanderthal on Hydra Head, a nearly flawless and totally cohesive 36 minutes of controlled chaos that found its way on to many Best of 2008 lists. Maybe too easy to swallow for some, you've got to give them credit for leading off the album with a furious instrumental and never looking back. Meanderthal was the 00's version of QUICKSAND's Slip and I, for one, needed it. So why did Montoya leave when the band appeared to be on the verge of cashing in? The answer--at least the public one--was the always unsatisfying "creative differences." Upon hearing that my guess was that Montoya thought the band was getting soft. He was the longhair, tended to smile the least, and took the rippin' solos. Admittedly, I haven't heard much from his new project, MONSTRO, but I'm prepared to say I was way off. Larry Herweg of PELICAN has and had this to say: "The Monstro record rules! Its gonna be good!" Of the three songs that have found their way on to the band's MySpace site, "Anchor's Up!" would not be out of place on a TORCHE record. The second, "April", is the shocker, an 8 minute ride driven by a repeating bass line that is by atmospheric guitar effects that all could have been lifted from an early VERVE jam session. Not the jazz label, the English psych band. You won't hear me complain. "No Come Down" was my personal theme song for a stretch. And the most recent, "Helios", bridges the gap. So on this Friday night, when MONSTRO makes its West Coast debut, I will enter the Three Clubs with no expectations. That usually sets the scene for a good night.