13 Jan 2022 - Daniel F.
Post Rock | Release date: 14 Jan 2022
Toundra have always been subservient to the dark and mysterious, a mood they channel through the medium of sometimes murky, sometimes enlightening post rock music. Seven albums deep into their emphatic career, they have consistently dazzled with their immersive approach which is largely focused on driving, atmospheric rock with the odd exception - such as 2020’s ”Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari”, a soundtrack which was written to accompany the silent film of the same name in celebration of it’s 100th anniversary.
2021 saw them approach the writing process from a completely different perspective. Hampered by the same unsettling experiences as every other living soul on earth, they were forced to cancel touring plans and tear up the rulebook entirely, instead honing their attention on the creation of all that is holy; fresh, new music. If there is any silver lining to be found around the thick set cloud that has overshadowed the last two years, it has provided the perfect canvas for melancholy and a ponderous mindset. This is where Toundra flourish, and as such the treacherous months of the pandemic bore fruit in the form of their latest LP, Hex.
The album is cut in half almost symmetrically, the first side of which is dominated by a single track, ”El Odio”. I’m not sure how literally the Spanish translation for “The Wave” relates to the spread of the-virus-that-shall-not-be-named, but either way the track is oceanic in stature, rising and falling like the crests of a moonlit tide and shimmering with detail and profound depth. Although standing as a continuous piece of music, it is split into three “partes”, each of which takes us on a tumultuous journey without words. ”Parte I” starts with a hint of hope, shining brightly as it builds pools dusted with synth and complex drum patterns, before ”Parte II” begins to drag us down into deeper catharsis, upping the heaviness and installing dark, pummelling riffs amongst the dense atmosphere. ”Parte III” concludes the trilogy perfectly, switching from turbulence to idyllic soundscapes with effortless precision.
Starting the album with such an intricate and diverse track is a bold move. It is normally a concept used for closing albums, but beginning the record with such strength only highlights Toundra’s confidence in the rest of their offering. And for good reason. ”Ruinas” is next on the agenda. Much more Toundra-by-numbers, it is a melody driven track that produces a driving energy that powers towards it’s finale. Bordering on progressive metal, it is built from potent composition and doesn’t allow us to stop for breath. It leans towards the unsettling, again reminiscent of the times we all find ourselves in. ”La Larga Marcha” upsets the trend somewhat, opting to soar closer to electronics and harmony. It is carried out at a slower pace than preceding tracks, yet never fails to keep up the energy levels as it whips through distorted instrumental passages and atmosphere as thick as tar.
And so the album’s precedent is set. As it is drawn to a close by ”Watt” and ”FIN”, it sees Toundra experiment further with diverse sounds (even daring to introduce saxophone into the equation) adding to the algebraic approach that dictates their music. In summary, Hex is a fantastic addition to the band’s discography. It is like hopelessly sinking into quicksand only to come to the realisation that this band wants us to fight. As guitarist Esteban Girón quotes from an old Spanish Civil War poster, ‘If we tolerate this, our children will be next.’
If there is one thing to take away from this album, let it be that.