Heading into the fourth year of their retro speed metal-glazed gig, Sweden’s Tøronto have found strengthened identity in devolution or, what many fans would see as a reversion to proto-speed metal and primal pre-crossover hardcore punk influences. Comprised of ex-Morbus Chron and current Lethal Steelers the quartet have found themselves taking a hard turn away from the fairly typical and glossy retro speed metal style of their first demo (‘Tøronto‘, 2017) and transitioning into grittier street punk rabidity a la UK82. Those formative motions saw the band spike n’ chug their way from near-poodle status to snarling, beer-spanking bulldogs whilst finding the right tone on their ‘Nocturnal High‘ (2018) demo. A couple years beyond they’ve dialed their riffing back to circa ’86 Motörpunk, bristling their manes even higher on this first official EP, ‘Under Siege’.
There have been countless generations of revisionist and/or revivalist speed metalpunk hybridization over these last four decades, enough that it can be hard to take comparisons seriously when the bulk of it is plain worship or just poorly achieved formative work. In this case I’d say Tøronto is a uniquely sourced entity, pulling from a variety of old and new traditions alike, most often reaching back to the mid-to-late 80’s with parallel dimensional rifts shared between Tøronto‘s sound and classics from English Dogs (‘To the Ends of the Earth’), Warfare‘s brash ‘Metal Anarchy’, and Deviated Instinct‘s ‘Rock n’ Roll Conformity’ where each band had either taken a step from hardcore punk towards the increasingly extreme metal of the era or, taken a step ‘backwards’ and shaved a freshly keen mohawk from their mop. No doubt this modus lands nearby the edge of modern groups such as Inepsy, Overcharge, Bat, and even Speedwolf if you take the earlier Motörpunk suggestion way literally. Songwriting is what’ll set this one apart beyond the tightly dialed-in street punk-meets-’83 thrasher vibe; For a ridiculous 80’s hardcore punk obsessive such as myself, the balance of razor sharp and full-throttle speed metal complete with street punk spikes is a mixed bag in terms of actual soul-rubbing punk rock hooks but the entirety of ‘Under Siege’ drops with a heavy enough sac a-swinging that I always had a damned blast giving it a spin.
When things push hard into punk realms, particularly “Mud City Maze” and “Bunker/Under Siege”, Eddie Flawless‘ raw snarl takes a Poison Idea-esque tone, I’m not saying it is ‘War All the Time’ 2.0 exactly but that the character of his voice and cadence has roots in some of the same rock n’ roll. Although I enjoy the punk edge of the band immensely no doubt Tøronto are better at writing quick speed-thrashers than they are sing-along punk n’ roll but that didn’t stop me from enjoying any of it. When it comes time to either settle into a stomp or push out a big hooks (“Fire in Sight”, “23-11-0”) they’ve got the speed metal whip down pat. With that said the best of both worlds sometimes hits even harder, such as standout “Ride the Rails” and anthemic opener “Fast and Filthy”, those’d be the biggest recommends in preview. Though my thoughts might appear scatterbrained on paper the gist is that this eight song ~23 minute EP hits a pretty solid range of tones, textures, moods, and echoes the cocaine and cheap beer soaked youth culture of the 80’s with some appreciable weight. This one is an easy recommend for a broad range of folks be it die-hard metalpunk fans, speed metal fanatics who dabble in the punk arts, if you can go from Exciter to Obnoxious Youth without flinching these guys are hitting solid ground you should be buying up on ‘Under Siege’. Just keep in mind if you’re just a curious Morbus Chron fan, this ain’t it. Moderately high recommendation.
Moderately high recommendation. 4.0/5.0
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