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Toledo Steel - Heading for the Fire

Toledo Steel
Headed for the Fire
by Chris Hicklin at 25 October 2021, 4:42 PM

Formed in 2011 in Southampton on the south coast of England TOLEDO STEEL (so named for drummer Matt Dobson’s interest in medieval weaponry) spent several years building a fan base the hard way through playing clubs & festivals. The band released their well-received debut “No Quarter” in 2018, which set in motion some extensive touring across Europe and the UK supporting such Metal heavyweights as BLAZE BAYLEY who all know, and some love, from IRON MAIDEN. Despite some high-profile festival slots under their belt, they suffered the same fate as all of us, having their touring and recording schedule turned upside down by a global pandemic, but having weathered that storm they are back with their second full length release “Heading For The Fire”. They self-identify as a band rooted in the NWOBHM sound, but this is not all they are, the band ventures into some grimy Hard Rock and even a little experimentation in places.

The band gets things off to a very sure start on “On the Loose” with a furious riff to kick things off, Rich Rutter lets out an almighty Metal scream that will shake you to your foundations as he stamps his authority on proceedings. His range is impressive, his voice can move from low end growls to high pitched squeals with ease, it is maybe a little nasal in places for my personal tastes, but this is a stylistic choice.

Moving on we have something of an unfortunate coincidence in track three, as along with MAIDEN, TOLEDO STEEL become the second British Heavy Metal band this year to release a song called “Writing’s on The Wall,” well I took a little liberty with the punctuation there, but the name is virtually the same. Now in a straight up battle of such-named songs one could hardly hope to beat one of the world’s most popular bands, but the track is impressive nonetheless with clever shifts in tempo and time signature and entertaining apocalyptically themed lyrics.

While “Smoke and Mirrors” dips its toe into some sleazy Hard Rock, with a thoroughly dirty riff and vocals that alternate between guttural and high pitched, “Wicked Woman” treats us to a classic Metal intro. Guitars panned left, drum & bass beat us with accents on the right, and wait for it, BLAM the track hits you square on. Predictable? Sure. Thoroughly satisfying? Absolutely.

The final two tracks run into each other and represent something of an opus. Part one “Rituals by The Firelight” has a Baroque inspired acoustic introduction and is a dark, ruminating downbeat piece, part two is nine-minute non-stop tour-de-force of Metal that sees Tom Potter ripping through solo after solo, as hard-headed riffs grab you by the throat and will not let go. It’s a fearsome end to an ambitious album.

Throughout the album the musicianship is of a very high standard, Felix Dock and Matt Dobson represent a formidable rhythm section. But with respect to the band, for me the real star of the show is Tom Potter’s breath-taking guitar work. The album is positively littered with outrageous dual guitar solos that utilise every technical trick in his bottomless bag of ability, each executed with uncompromising precision. The production is top quality, the bass is punchy and clear, the drums tight and exacting, Potter’s guitars packed with tone. If I had to identify any weakness in the work, it would be the lyrics, which are inspired in places but occasionally also cliched and repetitive on the more lightweight tracks. That’s a minor nit-pick though when taken in the context of the whole LP.

Songwriting: 7
Musicianship: 9
Memorability: 7
Production: 9

4 Star Rating

Tracklist:
1. On the Loose
2. Into the Unknown
3. Writing’s on the Wall
4. Smoke and Mirrors
5. No Time to Lose
6. Wicked Woman
7. Rituals by the Firelight
8. Last Rites
Lineup:
Rich Rutter - Vocals
Tom Potter - Guitar
Felix Dock - Bass
Matt Dobson - Drums
Record Label: Cherry Red Records
     


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