ToxicRose - Total Tranquillity - (9/10)
Published on May 18, 2016
Let’s get metal.
Looking at the cover of Total Tranquility’s gloriously-detailed cover art, you’re probably expecting something akin to a new Black Dahlia Murder album; the triumphant return of Dissection (from beyond the grave!); or even one of the many Entombed and Dismember worshiping throwback acts that seem to be popping up all over the place these days; and, while there’s no denying that ToxicRose1 are steeped in their metal ways, it’s also no secret that their sound remains firmly rooted in the kind of ‘80s-inspired hard rock that Sweden seems to have a decisive monopoly on in the modern era.
ToxicRose may have drummed up some decent hype for themselves—seeing as their drummer, Michael Sweet, is the younger brother of, reigning Swedish sleaze lords, Crashdiet’s lead guitarist, Martin—but they needn’t have bothered, since Total Tranquillity speaks entirely for itself. Some albums pose challenges that have to be grappled with repetitively before they reveal themselves, while others grab you instantly from the word “go”. Total Tranquillity is an example of the later. From the pounding opening chords of “World Of Confusion” this album demands your complete attention and rewards you with some of the best Scandanavian sleaze committed to record.
Total Tranquillity is built on a solid foundation of pounding riffs, coupled with transfixing guitar and keyboard melodies and equally-compelling vocal lines, which continually push the limits of Swedish sleaze rock’s capacity for awesomeness. Each and every moment on this album is an absolute highlight; from its fist-pumping opener throughout its epic title-track, closer. Sure, there’s a certain sameness to some of the songs—compare the chorus of “World Of Confusion” with that of “Killing The Romance”—but, despite what’s often been said on the matter, too much of something this good really doesn’t seem all that bad. Total is an album that continually pushes the bar, track after track—building upon the previous number and adding a little more each time, so that the album steadily progresses from its relatively straight-forward opening numbers to its more-extreme and accomplished conclusion.
Numerous Swedish hard rock bands have openly flirted with the heavier end of the sonic spectrum in the past, but ToxicRose might be the first act from the scene to delve head-first into the realms of heavy metal. ToxicRose retain the songwriting sensibilities of their sleaze rock brethren, but they go ahead and mix this template with driving riffs and dazzling leads; whether it’s the many dazzling solos, the many Maiden-style leads of scattered throughout or the Children Of Bodom-esque keyboard intro of “Reckless Society”—ToxicRose are never far away from convincingly asserting that they are a heavy metal band, and Total Tranquility is a heavy metal album.2 It’s as if Crashdïet finally gave way to their Sweet sibling’s transparently metallic tendencies—not to mention those of oft-Morbid Angel singlet-donning, and Opeth patch-brandishing, drummer Eric Young—and ran with it. Hard. In some cases, the allusion goes beyond subtle, such as the aforementioned “Sinner” which blends the soaring chorus of Crashdïet’s “I’m Alive” with the driving riffage of “Bound To Fall”.
Perhaps due to its somewhat misleading cover art, it’s possible that many sleaze rockers will miss this record and/or that many more extreme types will be drawn in only to dismiss it. Hopefully, the inverse turns out to be true: that Total Tranquillity gets its proper due from both parties and ToxicRose go down in history as the band that dropped all the bullshit and dragged Swedish hard rock (rather compliantly, I must say) into the realms of pure heavy metal. Debut album of the year anyone?