TOAD, or Take Over And Destroy acronym fans, are a sextet from Phoenix, Arizona who are described as playing blackened rock n’roll. What we talk about when we say blackened rock n’roll or hardcore is actually what original black metal was, speed and brutality married to satanic lyrical themes and imagery. In my opinion, the Venom and Hellhammer templates have never been improved upon (in fact, I find modern Scandinavian-style black metal about as unappealing as comedy polka or German oompah music – it’s an embarrassing novelty) and bands like TOAD and Kverlertak are invoking the spirit of the early masters and adding their own personalities and influences.
I immediately take to ‘Taste of the Grave’ as it comes hurtling out of the speakers, no eerie Scooby Doo intro, straight into vicious vocals by the impressive Andy Leemont and BANG! – in come the band. Hardcore gang vocals mix pleasingly with gothic organ, grinding guitars and thunderous drumming. Thankfully the clichéd blast beats are kept to a minimum by Jason Tomaszewski , who relies on power and variety instead. It’s a great introduction to the band and only grows on you more with repeated listens. For me the following two tracks of this five track mini-album are more of the same, only less captivating; ‘Cosmophobia’ and ‘Howling House’ are both full of TOAD‘s skillful genre mash-ups, interesting time changes and convincingly manic intensity, but they just aren’t individual enough to grab you by the ears.
Just when you may be thinking that TOAD have blown their chance by bringing out the ace card too early, the double-whammy of ‘Boundaries of Flesh’ and ‘Endless Night’ grabs you by the throat and makes you come back to the table. Neither of these songs do anything particularly different to what’s come before but TOAD do occasionally swap maniacal fury for a slower, crushingly heavy stomp; it’s not especially doomy as it’s too sparky and spiky for that. ‘Boundaries of Flesh’ brings to mind Triptykon in it’s slower, epic intonations towards it’s close and ‘Endless Night’ is a master class in tempo and mood changes with an almost surgical use of the right guitar part at the right time. These songs get the balance right and never fall into any lazy or obvious genre traps, and like Kverlertak can delight in throwing in classic metal moves to lighten the mood.
Proper metal, or whatever you call it, should be fun and exciting to listen to. This fits the bill.