Toledo Steel - No Quarter

Toledo Steel No Quarter cover
Toledo Steel
No Quarter
Dissonance Productions
Fans of compact and “nitrogenous” mid-tempo traditional heavy metal which touches heavily on classic mythology/science-fiction/all-around metal mayhem narrative themes in a similarly accessible and enthralling manner as Ambush, Bullet, Sacred Leather or Substratum owe it to themselves to zero in on Toledo Steel’s long overdue yet powerfully redemptive full-length debut aptly titled “No Quarter”, which, in comparison, essentially makes the Bournemouth/Southampton quartet’s past triptych of innocuous, partial productions - a three-track demo and two beefier EPs – look like child’s play.
Released digitally and on CD in May under Dissonance Productions (which, incidentally, harbors a much-coveted surprise for die-hard, inveterate Cauldron-ites) as well as 12" vinyl with Back on Black, “No Quarter”’s “host” of suavely catchy and robust offerings perfunctorily tops forty minutes of non-stop foot-stomping/fist-pumping action – bear in mind I’m not wantonly spewing hyperbole! The slick and prophetically apocalyptic seven-minute opener, “Behold the Machine”, officially usurps RAM’s petrifying “Machine Invaders” as the quintessential go-to track involving unfathomable perils borne (out) of man’s foolish technological hubris i.e. stubbornly naive, harebrained meddling with Artificial Intelligence.
In light of my recent and intrepid perusal of James Barrat’s “Our Final Invention” (Thomas Dunne Books, 2013) and Nick Bostrom’s “Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies” (Oxford University Press, 2014), I’m forever consumed by this oracular gem’s imminently warped “re-boot” sound fx and urgently shuffling guitar riff backed by an unrepentant, boxy drum prattle, not to mention crisp, wryly critical quips such as: “Future generations, hard-wired to machines/Systematic breakdown of our dreams!”, or “Desolation, cities laid to waste/Metal tyrants rule the Human raaaaaaace!”.
Best of all, its languorously dire and foreboding, jostling appeal will never, ever wear thin, man’s continued existence God willing:
“Systems you can’t override
Man has lost control!
Strike back with an iron fist
Before they claim the World
(Claim the World!)”
Watch out for front man Rich Rutter’s oh-so-devilish and loose handling of the second and very last line; not only does he evocatively amplify the words “control” and “world”, but also slyly injects them with a gleefully psychotic lingering warble, in the process, applying a telltale vocal stamp.
Auspicious embellishments abound, from the nostalgically compelling sing-along refrains to “No Quarter” proper and “Cemetery Lake”, on which Rutter uncannily evokes the legendary prime mover himself, to, battery wise, Nathan Davies’ pugnaciously rumbling surround, notably on “Rock Nights”, a bad-ass boon companion to 3 Inches of Blood’s “Crazy Nights” – yet, I draw the line at gauche allusions to Judas Priest’s uproariously kitsch “Wild Nights, Hot & Crazy Days”!
An explicit nod to Reagan-era trailblazers such as Priest, Saxon, Manowar, Armored Saint and Cerberus consists of the festive and inflammatory anthem, “Visions in the Fire”. Fueled by Matt Dodson’s snappy, syncopated fills and madly off-kilter cowbell, it exudes a sassy and provocative wanderlust reminiscent of “The Chain Reaction”, arguably the stand-out piece of Ambush’s 2015 “Desecrator” sophomore.
In fact, the Växjö based Swedes unvariably spring to mind as the new and improved Toledo Steel sounds quite similar in terms of production, track lay-out, song arrangement and above all, invigoratingly melodic and raw musicianship compounded by a combative and stentorian, even-keeled rhythm section which hints of early Anvil and British Steel era Priest’s robotic-ally pounding, “rapid fire” beats. Furthermore, thanks to his multi-layered and sky-high, fluently expressive leads which largely adhere to nimble and conservative, however hard-wired, techniques and flourishes, lone ax man Tom Potter creates the illusion Toledo Steel is a twin-guitar band akin to its Scandinavian confreres... put that in yer drive and “smote” it!
Although the musicianship is, unsurprisingly, more intricate and tighter than before, one readily senses enormous growth potential for the future. At present, the riffs, whether simply power chord driven or triplet, staccato based, fall short of jaw-dropping face-peelery but rest assured Potter’s congenial straight-forwardness, as well as affinity for deep, crafty bridges, warrants keen, rhapsodic returns as much as “eager-beaver” word-of-mouth conveyance.
In any event, the rock-ish-ly luminous, virtuoso style leads on the perquisite – and perhaps hung over – bar busting anthem, “Heavy Metal Headache”, or the sprightly liberating “hopping” bridge riff three minutes into the title track serve as irrefutable proof this persistent and sedulous formation has not only found its niche, but finally, at long last, gained a global foothold alongside reputable outfits such as Striker, Holy Grail and the aforementioned Cauldron, North American contemporaries whose respective celebrated debuts set the tone for highly successful “Iron Man” sprees.
Granted, the action’s core lies within the album’s first half (or tracks one through four, if you will). While entirely devoid of filler, once the milder “Sight of the Sniper” – the equivalent, thrill wise, of Ambush’s “South Street Brotherhood” – rounds the bend, a vague same(y)-ness begins to subtly pervade the rest of the album’s forty vinyl conducive minutes. As a whole, the eight tracks, including the commendable, “un-epic” closer, “When the Night Draws In”, feel a little too congruent for their own good (a particular impression also gleaned from Volture’s decent but prosaic debut proper, 2013’s “On the Edge”).
All the same, barring excessive and, Heaven forbid, unctuous praise, Toledo Steel’s “No Quarter” firmly represents classic, old school heavy metal’s rambunctious “sword wielding” origins; of late, it’s also the release I’ve recommended most, whether the ambushed target was so raucously inclined or, contrarily, greener than the White House’s South lawn. Chances are, this here modern-day genre cornerstone readily invokes a tipping point towards the former!