The Porcelain Throne: Toundra

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While the Throne is usually reserved for older or defunct bands, I found that Lacertilian’s article on Toundra is good enough to occupy any throne. In fact, I think I found my new favorite instrumental band thanks to this submission.

The Throne is thriving thanks to you guys, keep sending in your articles, and remember to use The Official Porcelain Throne Guidelines if you need some help getting started. Without further adieu, here is Lacertilian:

Toilet dwellers, it’s your resident reptilian here. After hearing the call for submissions to the Porcelain Throne, I decided to give a bit of a background on the band Toundra. For those that do not already know of this band, they are based in Madrid, Spain. Toundra formed from a combination of two previous bands, of which I know little about, as I am not too familiar with the Spanish rock/metal scene. I first heard about them on a YouTube comment section recommendation. Yes, I do sometimes submit myself to the painful depths of comments sections on videos. This is something I am trying to remedy. Although, without this particular recommendation, I would have most likely never given this band a chance.

I hesitate to lump Toundra into a specific genre, as they offer qualities and styles found across several rock, metal, and other associated genres. One thing I can say is that the quartet is almost completely instrumental, amidst the common calls for them to utilize a vocalist, to which they (thankfully) resist. While the comparisons to other notable contemporary instrumental bands such as Russian Circles and If These Trees Could Talk are useful for garnering a starting point, they do not really offer a true perspective of the character and energy that Toundra encompass.

(I) (2009)

If you want a good starting point to dive into their short but memorable discography, Toundra’s first release is it. Everything that they became musically and stylistically can be found here. From the melodic buildings found in the intro track “Bajamar” and later “Jauria”, to the writhing beasts “Medusa” and “Genesis”, and finally to the clean and soothing “Pleamar” and “Tesalia”, Toundra exhibit great skill in utilizing dynamics throughout the individual tracks and throughout the entire album. The gentle lapping of waves on the track “Pleamar” is analogous to the way in which the album ebbs and flows, keeping the listener engaged spatially and temporally.


(II) (2010)

If you enjoyed the first album, then (II) will most likely keep you thoroughly entertained. The album commences in a similar form to (I), with some nice clean guitars building to form a solid core from which the record flourishes. The guitar tones offered throughout are especially pleasing to my ear and showcase the guitarists’ talent at playing both clean and distorted riffs. The use of effects and slight touches of natural harmonics, while sporadic, are great examples of this skill.

Let’s talk about the tracks themselves. The epic 10+ minute “Magreb” will take you on a journey within itself. Around the 6 or 7 minute mark, the guitars strip back to reveal a tight bass & drum partnership, which maintains the punchy aspect of the track without losing any flair. I would also like you to draw your attention to the percussion. Throughout all their albums, Toundra’s drummer manages to draw influence from many sources without ever sounding derivative, even managing to pull off that percussive tribal sound that so many bands have attempted, with varying degrees of success (think Tool’s “Reflection”).

The ending riffs on “Zanzibar”, and also on “Danubio”, show Toundra at their most aggressive, with the latter being a culmination of 7 minutes of glorious melodic sinuosity. This band knows when to unleash upon the listener, after lulling them into a state of harmonic mesmerisation, without it ever seeming jarring.

 


(III) (2012)

Finally, Toundra’s third album (you guessed it) (III) is what I would consider their most epic release to date. From the addition of string elements on the album opener “Ara Caeli” and the beautiful “Requiem”, to the atmospheric inclusions on “Cielo Negro”, Toundra are pushing themselves to further engage the listener with dynamic augmentation. This aspect is one of the main factors that separate Toundra from their peers. Where their contemporaries seem satisfied with entrenchment in post-metal/rock and textural minimalism, Toundra seem to express a desire to allow influence to flow through them. This album is a testament to that.

I highly recommend heading over to their bandcamp page and spending time listening to an entire album to get a proper feel for their style, which simply cannot be totally grasped in one track. With a new album released early this year (see the track at the end of this article), this is a great time for fans of progressive instrumental music to give Toundra a chance, because if you enjoy this style of music, that’s all they’ll need to get your attention.

YLiF here, this was written right around the time of the new album release on January 26th, but if you dig it as much as I do, you can find (IV) at Superball Music, or on Spotify!

I want to thank Lacertilian for this excellent recommendation and article. I know you people out there are hiding other amazing bands from the Toilet ov Hell. Hit the keyboards and send your Porcelain Throne submissions to tohthrone@gmail.com.

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