Toska – Toska (Eihwaz/Bindrune Recordings)

Tuesday, 17th May 2016
Rating: 8.5/10

For once, let’s spare the awe and usual declarations of how unique and exotic the Icelandic metal scene is. We know that already. Instead, it’s more appropriate to dive head-long into a rather sterling debut album by way of Toska’s self-titled effort. Originally released by the band in 2015, Eihwaz/Bindrune has saw fit to pick up the album for proper release. And while that move has yet to unveil the 5W’s of Toska (they are without social media presence, have no band credits, et al), it will almost instantly thrust the Icemen into the intriguing cabal of majestic black metal.

Running the gamut from traditional, wind-swept Norwegian climes, to the hyper-intense motives of the French scene, Toska is without a proper tag in which to function. And it works. The fury and/frenzy found on “Night I – Algid Gales” takes off with frenetic melodies, wide, open chords, and regularly-churning backbeat. Expansive guitar work takes hold on “Night II – Throbbing Tumulus,” where a unique spate of melodies worms its way into BM’s core, which is continued on the excellent “Night III – Iced Spectres,” the album’s undisputed highlight. Again, it’s the stream of lightning-quick melodies that makes it all go, but, a surprising drop-out around the song’s 1:45 mark is truly glorious. (A similar happening makes its way into “Night IV – The Howling Descent” to similar effect.)

Armed with some of the best riffing and melodic structuring heard of late, Toska’s self-titled debut is an instant winner. Seemingly unwilling to blend into the normal, everyman black metal tapestry, here’s a band carefully discarding some of the sound’s relative norms, all the while running circles around its contemporaries in the riff department. A striking, marvelous first foray, Toska are onto something of immense importance here.