This album kicks ass. Really. I snagged Toundra‘s ‘II’ a year or so ago purely based on the cover art… and was not disappointed. Post-metal/post-rock from Spain? Sure! All the right types of sludgy riffage interspersed with some nice melodies….. Well I’m pleased as punch to report that ‘III’ is even better. This sounds like a band that has matured, refined and evolved their sound; all while paying indirect homage to their influences. In fact, it makes me more than a little sad I may never get to see them in Australia. Anyway, on with the show…
While Toundra‘s previous releases were clearly falling on the metal side of rock, that has changed this time around. ‘III’ opens with ‘Ara Caeli’ where, after an atypical intro, a nice punchy drum sound builds into the ‘chorus’ element… with strings! Beautiful strings. Accompanied by a lovely sludgy bass line and some nice buzzsaw guitars this track really sets the tone for the album… They may visit metal-town, but here the emphasis is on melody and harmony and tonal variance… until the last 2-odd minutes of the track, where you could be forgiven for thinking it’s almost a mid-80’s instrumental Metallica release – big riffs, rocking hard. Love it. And that melody is still there.
Next cab off the rank is ‘Cielo Negro (Black Sky)’, which is surely going to open a few live shows for them. I can already picture epic power chords and air guitar from the audience as this song builds and then backs off to a little guitar melody, reminding us of that tonal variance again before the main theme kicks in. It’s almost formulaic… until a phaser/reverb heavy digital keyboard melody comes in and takes the top of your head off, only for a dirty guitar to come through after and finish off anything left. Well played Toundra, well played indeed. Which leads into….
‘Requiem’. Wow. WOW. It’s not only the best track on the album, it’s one of my ‘best of’ for 2012. Starts with a touch of country-tinged melancholia that screams shades of ‘Grace Cathedral Park’, all beautiful violins and morose cello with wonderful acoustic guitar and a nicely mixed drum sound. This track builds, in no hurry to make its intentions known, as it adds line after line to the melody – sometimes the guitar drives, sometimes the violin and sometimes the low warble of the cello forces its way through… until the four minute mark when they channel ‘Mono’ and let the track explode… Fuck. Big cheesy rock guitar solos not out of place in a Guns’n’Roses song while the violins go up an octave and shred for their lives. This song demands loud volume. Beautiful.
And then there’s ‘Marte (Mars)’ – perhaps not a weak track per se but perhaps the song on the album most like their older stuff. Not a bad thing, but it’s always hard to follow a track like ‘Requiem’. It’s not a bad track, and I’m sure it would kickass live – but it’s the most formulaic thing on the album barring the cheesy trumpet, which Spanish bands of any ilk seem to excel at.
The second last track is ‘Lilim’, and instantly reminded me of Jakob with the layers of guitar delay. It’s subdued a little, but their drummer shines on this track – subtle fills, staccato snare hits and some great moments there for air drumming – I should know. Just got busted on the bus doing it. Oh, did I mention the little xylophone? Simple but effective.
And then there’s ‘Espirita’ to round things off. And it’s a fairly balls to the wall finish, wringing the last little bit out of you – barely 20 seconds in and it’s already pulsating and weaving, before it backs off a little to let it build again. Their drummer really lets go in this one – and it’s fantastic, all runs of the kit and big massive hits… you can just about hear the smile on his face. And then out of nowhere trumpet and acoustic guitar make a brief interlude before the evil minor key guitar shredding power chords come back to bleed you dry… I can only imagine a small live venue full of dudes head banging and air guitaring to this. Sort of equal parts cock rock/metal/post-rock and awesome. So much awesome.
And that’s it – not quite 41 minutes long, yet it has that rare quality of feeling much longer and shorter all at once. I envisage that the main complaints will be that it is formulaic and paint by numbers but this album is a must buy. Similar to Maybeshewill’s ‘Not For Want Of Trying’ or Mono’s ‘Walking Cloud…’, this is an album you need. Get it. Now. Give them money – they have well and truly deserved it. One of the releases of 2012… And my pick for album artwork for sure.
‘III’ is available now through Bandcamp.
Posted by Nick Dodds.