Going down the instrumental route is an exciting prospect for musicians. It promises to always keep them on their proverbial toes from a creative standpoint because the music doesn’t rely on a vocal performance or a lyrical direction to mix things up. This excitement however is not without responsibilities. Sooner or later a band can find itself stuck in a certain musical framework and unable to move forward. The fellows in Toundra from Madrid have chosen to face the world as an instrumental post-metal band and they have always used their ability to paint pictures with notes to produce great results.
Ever since making waves with their sophomore record (II) in 2010, their sound has continued to evolve and mature with time. 2015 sees the release of their fourth full-length –appropriately titled– (IV) and it is another instrumental journey into the minds of these four Spaniards. Their music always seemed to project a Mediterranean ambiance mixed into a reflective, post-metal mood. Another bonus element that comes with the Toundra experience is ever so slightly abstract artwork. This is a common approach in the post-metal world but it works to complement the music because both forms of art can meld together without the forced rigidity of words.
(IV) starts off with ‘Strelka’ which exudes some positivity for about four minutes until the drums take things to the next level. ‘Qarqom’ comes next with some trilling that screams in beautiful anguish then a bout of busy drumming interrupts a sinister build-up in an attempt to fill the room with tension. The positive mood comes back on ‘Belenos’ which plants the seed of doubt as to how ‘metal’ this band actually sounds. Nevertheless, it’s the last time on this record where things sound peachy. Racking up the intensity once more begins with ‘Viesca’ where the additional string and brass instruments add more depth of sound; this gives way to ‘Kitsune’ with its brilliant chord arrangements and ‘MRWING’, the shortest yet most potent piece in terms of atmosphere. In hindsight, ‘Kitsune’ and ‘MRWING’ put together are what could have propelled Toundra to unparalleled greatness had it been expanded to fifty minutes. They stand as evidence of this band’s ability to envelope the listener’s attention with an overarching atmosphere.
This record needs several spins to start growing and, while it does actually grow, it doesn’t reach the heights of its predecessors. It’s a pretty solid release with an air of maturity about it yet it lacks the explosive creativity found on earlier efforts; it’s probably one of those situations where patience increases with age and slowly replaces the adventurous virtuosity of youth. The main concern that arises at this point in Toundra’s career is the possibility of the band being stuck in an artistic rut. (IV) is a good record but it’s honestly not their best effort. On the other hand, it could prove to be a turning point in their career if they are to slowly transition into a mellower, post-rock phase. This, dear reader, is a question better left for time to answer.
Toundra’s (IV) gets…