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Toundra > Vortex > Reviews
Toundra - Vortex

Solid post-metal performances that aren't hypnotic enough - 70%

NausikaDalazBlindaz, July 6th, 2019

Madrid-based post-metal quartet Toundra look pretty well known among the post-metal / post-rock crowd online but at MA these guys have so far had no attention paid them, even though by now they are onto their fifth album, "Vortex" released in 2018. Oddly "Vortex" is the band's first album to have its own title - all previous albums being self-titled and numbering from one to four. The cover of "Vortex" is also a very stark contrast to the artwork of those self-titled recordings: here on "Vortex", a lonely figure, small and insignificant, in the desert confronts what looks like a huge lunar eclipse. So there is the suggestion that Toundra is embarking on a changed direction and focus in the music.

After a fairly gentle introduction, the band launches straight into "Cobra" with a solid and sustained performance that is dense with guitar riffs and melodies and enthusiastic drumming. In spite of the title, the music is joyful and seems to race away from its originators who play hard to catch up. The density of the music might indicate that it's supposed to be totally immersive but even though the passion and enthusiasm are oozing out of every melody, riff and lead guitar break-out, the music does not really have that overwhelming, hypnotic quality. Perhaps the music is too busy and not quite atmospheric enough for listeners' minds to relax completely and let the music wash over them. At least the music charges ahead with single-minded focus.

After the first couple of proper post-metal tracks ("Cobra" and "Tuareg"), the music isn't nearly as blistering and impassioned. Songs aren't quite so fast as before and to compensate for the drop in pace and energy, ambience and special effects are brought into the music. Melodies upon melodies and riffs upon riffs, some with quite a dark tone, come thick and fast - but still the music doesn't have that hypnotic, all-encompassing effect. No matter how dense the music is, with each track bringing in new melodies and structures almost continuously right up to the end, it is far too busy showing off the musicians' technical skills and ability to jam well. The result is that some long tracks like "Mojave"can be boring and the later half of the album can be an ordeal to sit through.

When the album finally ends, I feel so relieved that I managed to get through it all. This isn't a good look. Technical virtuosity is not a substitute for real atmosphere, true belief in the music you're playing and the enthusiasm and passion you put into that playing. Toundra might be fired up playing instrumental, slightly commercial-sounding post-metal / post-rock with a very minimal set-up of guitars and drums but the result ends up being overly fussy and tiresome.