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Toxik > Dis Morta > Reviews
Toxik - Dis Morta

A Shrapnel Downpour Near-Drowns Humanity - 81%

bayern, August 10th, 2022

Yeah, the band finally came out with a wholesome outing! Toxik beverage all around to celebrate the end of the long wait, and also to enhance the enormous sign of relief that this wasn’t another subversive track-dripping/leaking operation, misleading signs of which were the two singles (“Power”, “Creating the Abyss”) that came cleaning up front initially. Nope, those were just marketing tools, which also handsomely showed which way this opus would swerve.

Right off-the-bat, this effort is by no means as good as the “In Humanity” package; it lacks the latter’s complex gravity and creative exuberance; intentionally to these ears as Josh Christian’s agenda is quite different this time around. If the previous collection bravely tried to explore a few untrodden by the band trajectories, this one here is strictly a combination of the guys’ first two instalments, only wrapped in a modernized, sometimes sterilely abrasive cloak. This last ingredient may be hard to stomach by the purists, but a few listens down the line one should learn to tolerate it, cause after all we have either “Think Circus” or “This World”, depending on which title you fancy more, and this slab does deliver if viewed from this reminiscence perspective.

The other thing that will hit you straight in the face/ears, pretty much from the very first tunes, is Christian’s overt passion for the guitar virtuoso histrionics. The man has long since proved himself as a hugely gifted six-stringer, but here he’s absolutely unhinged: he shreds, solos, leads and riffs with youthful enthusiasm, both combining and racing with Malmsteen and Impellitteri every bit of the way, apparently intent on resurrecting the activities of the defunct Shrapnel label. Seriously, if Mike Varney and his colleagues hear (not just think) this, their one and only thought would be to bring back their old company, promptly, on the spot; and to instantly sign Christian and his toxic… sorry, toxik colleagues as their new flag carriers.

So is there anything else apart from dazzling guitar pyrotechnics here? Yep there is, a solid speed/thrash base on which Christian to weave his lofty six-string fantasies, one part modelled after the mentioned “Power” piece, short pulverizing speedsters extracted from the very core of the “World Circus”, some of those (“Straight Razor”) melting your face with their sweeping razor-sharp immediacy; others (“Feeding Frenzy”) pouring flasks of more technical tricks over their hyper-active foundation. The side that tends to the lovers of the “Think This” entanglements is only slightly hinted at with the mentioned “Creating the Abyss” single, a cool dramatic dystopian twister which more ambitious layout is more deftly revealed later on, on the jumpy labyrinthine “Hyper Reality”, the few heavy semi-balladic developments witnessed accompanying a couple of fervent speedy skirmishes on “Chasing Mercury”, “Devil in the Mirror” another thinking elaborate striver built on a restless thrashy engine, “Judas” at the end betraying no one with a more academic array of moods and nuances, winking at the sophomore as well with a more restrained, fuller-fledged prog-metal layout.

The band old fans should be happy all over as again this outing tries to extract the essence from the first two albums, the musicians also serving the boosted modern production to probably attract new audience. Said audience should have no major complaints as everyone performs more than adequately, Ron Iglesias creating a lot of drama behind the mike, spreading his vocal abilities fairly widely, covering several octaves with ease. But he is simply bound to sing his heart out if he doesn’t want to be completely sidelined by Christian’s over-the-top exploits, with shreds, riffs and leads tossed in the air at every opportunity, the man turning this effort into a one-man show on occasion, occupying all the space provided with his six-string dexterity. There’s also this more or less intentional modernism (curt sterile riffage, brief groovy segments, etc.) thrown in at times that may annoy the ear, like the man subconsciously tries to expand on the formula he tried on the “Breaking Class” EP, but fortunately those moments are put in reins timely for the most part… the circus can't possibly acquire glaring numetal blemishes. Not during this trip down memory lane…

will I take this trip again in the coming days? Definitely; but not because I’ll be waiting to hear a nuance or motif that I’ve missed to catch the first few times around. I think I’ve mapped out this opus pretty well now. After all, it’s a look back at a glorious past period; a safe one. But it can't be any other way having in mind who does the supervision here: a rampant guitar hero whose omnipresence should calm humanity down. Will he promise it salvation with his next saga? Quite possibly, now that the nostalgia has been taken care of here… and, he already had a superb blueprint prepared before that one. A piece of cake.

History repeating itself - 39%

The Bard with Bright Eyes, August 6th, 2022

An old school thrash band with a legendary debut and a disappointing follow-up releases a new album after 33 years? Jeez, where did I hear that before *quickly glances at Possessed*? I'll admit that I didn't have any great expectations for this album since (unlike many), I didn't like Think This due to its tasteless Pantera-styled "groove" riffs, Sabin's empty, unsatisfying shrieks and, solos and an occasional solid riff aside, lack of everything that made World Circus such a classic (as well as the fact that it generally sounds like a forced attempt at emulating Watchtower and Voivod, despite Toxik having a unique and perfectly fine sound of their own). I expected that the third album, just like with Possessed, would have more in common with the lackluster sophomore than with the classic debut. I was partially correct.

So, what does it sound like? Basically, this thing is a blend of World Circus and Think This. The two albums are drastically different from each other and the band evidently didn't want to alienate fans of either of the two. Five songs would fit well on World Circus and the other five on Think This. Ron Iglestias' vocals, appropriately enough, are somewhere between Charles Sabin and Mike Sanders; not as helium-insane as Sanders, but not as flat as Sabin, either. Overall, he's pretty good, even if not somebody to go crazy over.

The album features lots of mechanical/robotic riffing and soloing. Unfortunately, it also features some either almost or completely unlistenable groove riffs which are worse than anything on Think This. The "Where the Slime Live, but even dumber" main riff of the title track made me feel bile in my throat, to say the least. The verses are thrashier, but don't help the matters much. The pre-chorus is very EUPM-ish and pretty good, which cannot be said for the actual chorus, unfortunately. Then an acoustic section and the track ends. What a strange track; it's too developed to be an intro piece, but not developed enough to be an actual song.

So, yeah. The half-assed opener had left a pretty bad initial impression. Thankfully, it gets better for the next few songs. Feeding Frenzy, The Radical and Power combine the technicality of Think This with the energy and liveliness of World Circus. As you might imagine, they kick a decent amount of ass. They have everything you may ask for from Toxik: relentless and ecstatic riffs (this time with a mechanical edge that wasn't present on World Circus); Josh's mind-bending solos that brilliantly combine futuristic tapping and power metal style of melody; stratospheric vocals and enough energy to awaken a coma patient and inflict him with ADHD. Same goes for Straight Razor and Devil in the Mirror. Enjoy these songs while they're on.

Because the rest of the album... oh man. Slow, meandering, self-indulgent "weird for the sake of being weird" snoozefests that take everything that was bad about Think This and make it several times worse. Creating the Abyss in particular is an atrocious, Meshuggah-styled, groove-laden mathcore abomination and the summary of everything I hate about modern "progressive" ""metal"". It has an okay, theatrical over-the-top chorus, but it doesn't save the song at all. It is by far the worst song on this album, the worst Toxik song ever written and it boggles my mind why was it chosen as a single for the album. I don't want to sound like a braindead "fast = fun, slow = boring" guy, but these completely flowless and arrhythmic stop-go "chug chug chug" riffs are so disgusting and brain-damaging that I have no idea how can anybody tolerate them, let alone enjoy them. Not to mention that this type of riffs is not at all something Toxik excels at (lest we forget that Pain and Misery is the most boring song on World Circus).

Chasing Mercury is the only decent one out of the Think This-styled midpaced songs. It succeeds in creating the futuristic/dystopian atmosphere without being completely vomit-inducing in the process, and it also has some nice speedy riffs and a solo that overtly references Voices without blatantly aping it. But despite all that, it's merely okay and nothing more. And the closer, much like the opener, is very half-assed and directionless. It goes through mellow and heavy sections without leaving an impression, and it concludes the album in a very anticlimactic manner.

The production is also severely lacking, and is arguably the biggest problem with Dis Morta. Everything, despite being polished to the crisp, sounds muffled. It's as if the band is playing in your house, but each band member is in a separate room and the rhythm guitar amp is somewhere in the basement. The more technical sections especially disintegrate into a noisy, cacophonous mess (see the outro of Judas, for example). It significantly wrecks the listening experience and ruins even the good parts of the album.

Overall, it's a very inconsistent comeback with a shitty production that takes 10-15 points away from the score. Josh can still write some insane thrashers and excellent guitar parts, but it's a shame that they're surrounded with so much shit from all sides. Sorry, but I can't recommend this. Hopefully their next album (if it ever gets written) will be better. Until then, I'm sticking to Bestial Invasion.

Vital listening - 92%

gasmask_colostomy, August 5th, 2022

9 years in the making, or 33 years if you’d prefer to think of it that way, Toxik’s third album - and their first since reforming - has finally arrived. Near the close of the 1980s, when traditional thrash metal was beginning to umbrella out into a diversity of forms, the New Yorkers delivered World Circus and then Think This, a pair of albums that significantly raised the bar for technicality in the genre without divorcing from typical thrash pathways. Dis Morta comes 33 years after Think This and nearly a decade after Toxik regrouped in 2013, during which period all earlier members have left the band except Josh Christian, lead guitarist and main composer, who manages to ensure continuity with former work, as well as a higher quality of output than the recent EPs hinted at. Most importantly, the current line-up have produced a 10 song listen that boils with rabid songs pissed off and disenchanted with society, including that talismanic technical ferocity Toxik are known for. I for one am very pleasantly surprised.

Where Toxik are concerned, you’ll have to remember that headbanging is never out of the question, just that it will probably be injurious to your person, owing to the frequent tempo changes and detailed structuring of most of these 10 songs. The majority are just over 4 minutes in length though, which is plenty of time for an act this sharp to nail home their points and insert some sidetrack adventures. On Dis Morta the drilling precision of the riffs contrasts helpfully with the woozy lead tone and high-range vocals, Ron Iglesias favouring clean singing with high shrieks reminiscent of power metal excess though with little of the joy. Indeed, the majority of the 45 minutes feels dystopian, punishing, and unabashed. The rhythm team are unrelenting, particularly on the shorter numbers, while everyone shows impressive flexibility navigating features like the opening piano verse of 'Devil in the Mirror', the headspinning lead section in 'Straight Razor', and the extended introduction to the title track.

For the most part, however, Toxik commit to savagery, matching acerbic lyrics with vitriolic playing. The apt swirling skronk of the 'Feeding Frenzy' motif proves the imagination of Josh Christian matches his lead skills, while the blunt chorus seems to pick off targets like Overkill have just shown up in murderous mood. A couple of samples near the beginning of the album prove telling as well, 'Dis Morta' commencing with a solemn Bible passage, from which “no survivors” is picked out for repetition, then 'The Radical' chooses a much more modern form of militant Christianity to confront, a theme that resurfaces several times across the album. The ideological fervour is matched by the band, interestingly from the lead players in this instance, howling guitar and vocals combining as 'The Radical' progresses to a climax. Across the entire listen, intensity not so much builds up as aggressively springs out, a feature made possible by the tempo usually remaining regular while Christian adds more and more layers of shredding. In this regard, the production job picks out the levels very well.

The most impressive songs for me are grouped in the middle of the album. 'Hyper Reality' masterfully switches between soothing calm and hair-raising tension to mimic the discord that the lyrics speak of. I feel like I’m in one of those automatic houses that was advertised in the 1960s, everything perfect and regulated at one moment and then blurring out of control the next as the robot control stutters (a short clip of a smoothed-over female voice opens the song) and it feels weirdly like I’m tripping. Some retro futuristic synths and a juxtaposition of milky and acidic lead guitar are probably the cause for that headfuck. 'Straight Razor' proves that Toxik can be more direct and still slay, dashing straight into a fun riff and pounding through the shortest cut like a maddened heavy metal group, while 'Creating the Abyss' maximizes focus on the vocals for a very sticky verse that feels like a chorus, proving Iglesias more than capable of filling some very large shoes. That said, every song contains great instrumental work, some searing vocal passages, and its own sense of exploration, the longer and more varied numbers mainly arriving at the end of the album where they provide small breaks from speed and intensity.

Reunions and continuations like this can go either way, but I can see that this new incarnation of Toxik clearly have something to say and the chops to express themselves. As in the past, not every thrash fan will feel drawn to the trickiness of 'Creating the Abyss' or the melodic sections of 'Chasing Mercury', yet naturally those fond of Coroner and Heathen will delight in Dis Morta, while plenty of crossover potential with Paradox and Agent Steel exists, provided that listeners are content to venture into more jarring waters along with their beloved wailing and shredding. From my perspective, the best feature of the album is its memorability, alongside the fact that I’m rarely reminded of other bands while it’s playing. Far from signalling a final death for Toxik, Dis Morta is vital listening.


Originally written for The Metal Observer - http://www.metal-observer.com/3.o/review/toxik-dis-morta/