When it comes to watching bands play live, I have two pieces of advice that I will happily repeat well beyond the point of tedium. First and foremost, you should always wear ear protection, and I hope the reasoning for this is clear to everyone. Secondly, you should always get to the venue as early as possible, because you never know when that unfamiliar opening band is going to blow your socks off.
It was in mid-2015 that I first encountered Toska, opening the show to a handful of early birds arriving at a small Camden venue to watch TesseracT side-project Heights, and was pretty much immediately smitten with their riff-heavy approach to technical prog-metal. Since then, it has been tremendously pleasing to watch the momentum build around the band, first with debut EP, Ode To The Author in 2016, subsequently captured on it entirely for a live-in-the-studio Blu-ray. Then last year’s full-length, the excellent Fire By The Silos underscored both the continued development of the band musically, and the growing size of their audience, selling out every date of their UK tour in December 2018.
I went home and wrote about that first Camden encounter for the now-defunct publication I was then writing for, and I understand that I was the first writer to put anything in print about the band. Since then, I’ve always felt a little extra affinity with the band, and that makes me happy to present this ‘Anatomy of…’ piece, highlighting five of their influences. It’s perhaps initially surprising that the majority of their selections here are bands with vocalists, but Toska’s instrumentals have always felt more like actual songs than purely clever-clever technical exercises. Naturally, all of the choices here are excellent, and I will admit that I had not previously made the connection with the last of the five, but now I can see it with forehead-smacking clarity.
Ode To The Author and Fire By The Silos are both available on Toska’s Bandcamp page.
Karnivool – Sound Awake:
This record literally sums up perfection in songwriting, production and vibe from a band. They set the bar for us and redefined how we approached songwriting.
Sikth – Death of a Dead Day:
It was a defining album in terms of dark, technical and chaotic music for us. The foundation of groove in some songs, plus the dark sinister sound of that record was very inspiring.
Gustav Holst – The Planets:
Hearing this as a child, it has always stuck in my mind as a timeless source of inspiration. So many emotions and moods creating pictures and scenes in my head. That was inspiration for the approach to the most recent Toska record. Drama, ebb and flow, tension and release, all of which are hugely apparent with The Planets!
Hans Zimmer – Inception:
Hans zimmer needs no introduction, but his balance of classical and modern concepts is so inspiring. Taking motifs and movements that are clearly inspired by the greats, but mixing it with modern day sounds and ideas is refreshing.
Incubus – A Crow Left of the Murder:
I think each of us would definitely choose a different incubus record (Dave – Science, Ben – Morning View). I think the album that is most relevant in sound to Toska would be A Crow Left of the Murder simply because it’s their most progressive record and I would also say it’s their most musically deep record. Lots of interesting chord progressions and sounds. I think it’s closer to what we go for in Toska than previous records.