Toundra – III – 97%

(III) cover art

Formed in Late 2007, Toundra are a 4-piece post-metal/post-rock band from Madrid, Spain. Toundra have three releases to their name, I, II, and III, each release being substantially better than the last one. Released in 2009, I is brooding, mysterious and set the groundwork for the band’s signature sound. From there, we got II in 2010, which improved upon the bands rawness, adding refinement and maturity to their sound. II also happened to produce one of my favorite post-rock songs of all time, “Bizancio” , a 8 minute powerhouse ripe with bleakness, despair and aggression.

Now it’s 2012 and the band is back with III, a 6-track, 40 minute album that shows amazing band progression and prowess. From the opening moments of “Ara Caeli” you know you’re in for something real special. Guitar work is extraordinarily well layered and when combined with the arrangement of classical string instruments the band makes use of sounds melodic and soothing. Make no mistake though, Toundra has the ability to get loud, their instruments seemingly going into a frenzy of their own. It’s part of their tried and true formula that makes the band so fantastic.

Cielo Negro“, the second track on the album, opens with a bass line underneath the sound of rain falling onto concrete before guitars rev up in true 80’s power metal fashion. This track is as good as it gets but it saves the best for last with some absolutely insane guitar riffs that always manage to get me to crank the volume just a little bit louder. The final minute of this track is easily my favorite and most memorable moment in any post-rock song released this year. It’s easily reminiscent of “Drought” by Pelican where the fretwork is so passionate and intense you can just feel it in your soul. I have goosebumps as I write about it.

Just as the album is getting intense, it takes a step back with “Requiem” , which opens sounding like something of an Irish folk-rock track. Again the string sections stand out here offering much of the depth and emotion felt within the track. The giant sweeping bluesy guitar solo at the end feels right at home and really brings the whole track together. “Requiem” is an excellent display of layering and is by far the most sonically complete offering on the album.

Marte” is a return to the band’s heavier sound and opens as the most intense track on the album. This track is as close to post-metal as the band gets and never slows down. “Lilim” feels like a track more reminiscent of the work found on their previous album but at nearly seven and a half minutes it’s a great jam. The wide range of guitar tones on the track shows you just the amount of depth the masterminds from Spain are capable of. Again this is another track that races across the finish line just as strong as it started. The album comes to a close with “Espirita“, an aggressive track that will have your head bobbing along as it seamlessly makes transitions from one guitar tone or style to the next.

The album is just over 40 minutes but listening to it is quite the endeavor. The band packs a huge punch with their deceptively heavy yet alluring tones. This is without question the biggest and best of their three releases and deserves heavy consideration for post-metal album of the year. Prior to this album, I would have told you that Toundra was a pretty good band with a couple real gems. After releasing this album, Toundra have convinced me they are an amazing band that are only continuing to get better. III is a must listen to album of 2012 and Toundra are a must watch band in the immediate future. 11-2-12

Available for about $6 on bandcamp: http://toundra.bandcamp.com/album/iii