Toro are from Atlanta, Georgia and were formed in 2015 and mix together Metal, Prog and Doom. The line-up is: Zackery M. Hembree (lead vocals), Adam Mitchell (guitars and vocals), Pablo Davila (guitars), Bruno Segovia (bass) and Jason Belisha (drums). Departure is the group’s début release.
Painting With Shadows is like a lesson in sculpting with ferocious energy. It introduces itself with course electrostatic noise before surging into a semi-chaotic rhythmic assault, settling down only to provide a chorus which relies on a strong melodic hook which creates a welcome contrast. The breakdown has the chorus theme lingering before devolving into the ghost of the chorus: a whisper dressing a skeleton. The ferocity returns with a vengeance, the tension within the music palpable and as the final chorus rings out scoured echoes of the underlying theme drift away leaving the memory of variegated resonance. Just over four minutes: enough time to know this is going to be an EP filled with passion and variety. This is borne out by the next tune, This Hell Is Real, in which the quintet turn towards a more Prog / Grunge Rock style although it still has the intensity of Modern Metal dictating the overall approach. A massive verse immediately grabs the listener along with dual vocals (sung and screamed), the quietening before the chorus is a master-stroke and serves to strengthen the impact. The chorus is a counterpoint to the other parts of this tune by utilising a harsh but epic (near symphonic) quality: while the rest of this song is melodic and gentle, this stands out and therefore creates a hook by being a contrast. This sounds immense and grooves along without apology and also employs soulful touches by having clean electric sounds and acoustic guitars. The title piece is next – a short and introspective instrumental which Porcupine Tree would be proud of. It may appear to be of little use but helps as an interlude to lull the listener into a false sense of what is to come next. Well, you would as well: sounds from a train station with the drifting tones of a solitary guitar. Sounds like Southern Boogie but isn’t, that’s Bury Me Then Flee. It tears along without giving a damn and only lets up during the chorus which has an edge of Doom Metal about it mixed with something else (I’m tempted to say there is a South American or Black Sabbath flavour to this song but it’s difficult to place). The ground appears to be shifting within the nature of the tune but it still retains a clear view of where it’s destination is. A furious collision of styles moulded into the shape of Toro, the chaos is kept at bay only where the listener needs to get a foothold on the salient points initially (including the guitar solos, naturally). As much as this song is big to begin with there is a building up of intensity so that in the closing stages there is a transformation toward symphonic terror. When The Light Calls is a marked difference in approach: a Prog Rock lushness, acoustic purity with the suggestion in the background of what is to unfold. Pounding and unrushed in delivery, it has an elegance not experienced with the other four songs, an almost operatic granduer, a Gothic melodramatic air. Even though this is the most straight-forward of the five pieces on this EP, this final song has all the power to sustain its grip on the attention – after the dislocating attacks, and the solitariness of Departure, When The Light Calls is a rock solid, emotion-packed scream of a Metal tune.
Toro fine-tune individual parts of songs to create light and shade instead of relentlessly battering the listener senseless. The peculiarities and occasional eccentricities make this a stand-out release although where possible they crank up the volume but manage to incorporate within each tune an individuality. It seems that there are so many groups putting out truly awesome releases through Indie labels as well as those that use the self-financed route but Toro offer something of a standard by which to measure other groups (who are starting out and in the same general musical area). Definitely a group to watch and wonder at, Toro are at the earliest stage of an extremely promising career.