Toxik - Dis Morta - (9/10)

Published on July 31, 2022

Tracklist:

  1. Dis Morta
  2. Feeding Frenzy
  3. The Radical
  4. Power
  5. Hyper Reality
  6. Creating the Abyss
  7. Straight Razor
  8. Chasing Mercury
  9. Devil in the Mirror
  10. Judas

Genre:

Technical Thrash

Label:

Massacre Records

Playing Time:

44:31

Country:

U.S.A

Year:

2022

Website:

Visit page

Vital listening

 

9 years in the making, or 33 years if you’d prefer to think of it that way, Toxik’s third album – and their first since reforming – has finally arrived. Near the close of the 1980s, when traditional thrash metal was beginning to umbrella out into a diversity of forms, the New Yorkers delivered World Circus and then Think This, a pair of albums that significantly raised the bar for technicality in the genre without divorcing from typical thrash pathways. Dis Morta comes 33 years after Think This and nearly a decade after Toxik regrouped in 2013, during which period all earlier members have left the band except Josh Christian, lead guitarist and main composer, who manages to ensure continuity with former work, as well as a higher quality of output than the recent EPs hinted at. Most importantly, the current line-up have produced a 10 song listen that boils with rabid songs pissed off and disenchanted with society, including that talismanic technical ferocity Toxik are known for. I for one am very pleasantly surprised.

 

 

Where Toxik are concerned, you’ll have to remember that headbanging is never out of the question, just that it will probably be injurious to your person, owing to the frequent tempo changes and detailed structuring of most of these 10 songs. The majority are just over 4 minutes in length though, which is plenty of time for an act this sharp to nail home their points and insert some sidetrack adventures. On Dis Morta the drilling precision of the riffs contrasts helpfully with the woozy lead tone and high-range vocals, Ron Iglesias favouring clean singing with high shrieks reminiscent of power metal excess though with little of the joy. Indeed, the majority of the 45 minutes feels dystopian, punishing, and unabashed. The rhythm team are unrelenting, particularly on the shorter numbers, while everyone shows impressive flexibility navigating features like the opening piano verse of “Devil in the Mirror”, the headspinning lead section in “Straight Razor”, and the extended introduction to the title track.

 

 

For the most part, however, Toxik commit to savagery, matching acerbic lyrics with vitriolic playing. The apt swirling skronk of the “Feeding Frenzy” motif proves the imagination of Josh Christian matches his lead skills, while the blunt chorus seems to pick off targets like Overkill have just shown up in murderous mood. A couple of samples near the beginning of the album prove telling as well, “Dis Morta” commencing with a solemn Bible passage, from which “no survivors” is picked out for repetition, then “The Radical” chooses a much more modern form of militant Christianity to confront, a theme that resurfaces several times across the album. The ideological fervour is matched by the band, interestingly from the lead players in this instance, howling guitar and vocals combining as “The Radical” progresses to a climax. Across the entire listen, intensity not so much builds up as aggressively springs out, a feature made possible by the tempo usually remaining regular while Christian adds more and more layers of shredding. In this regard, the production job picks out the levels very well.

 

 

The most impressive songs for me are grouped in the middle of the album. “Hyper Reality” masterfully switches between soothing calm and hair-raising tension to mimic the discord that the lyrics speak of. I feel like I’m in one of those automatic houses that was advertised in the 1960s, everything perfect and regulated at one moment and then blurring out of control the next as the robot control stutters (a short clip of a smoothed-over female voice opens the song) and it feels weirdly like I’m tripping. Some retro futuristic synths and a juxtaposition of milky and acidic lead guitar are probably the cause for that headfuck. “Straight Razor” proves that Toxik can be more direct and still slay, dashing straight into a fun riff and pounding through the shortest cut like a maddened heavy metal group, while “Creating the Abyss” maximizes focus on the vocals for a very sticky verse that feels like a chorus, proving Iglesias more than capable of filling some very large shoes. That said, every song contains great instrumental work, some searing vocal passages, and its own sense of exploration, the longer and more varied numbers mainly arriving at the end of the album where they provide small breaks from speed and intensity.

 

 

Reunions and continuations like this can go either way, but I can see that this new incarnation of Toxik clearly have something to say and the chops to express themselves. As in the past, not every thrash fan will feel drawn to the trickiness of “Creating the Abyss” or the melodic sections of “Chasing Mercury”, yet naturally those fond of Coroner and Heathen will delight in Dis Morta, while plenty of crossover potential with Paradox and Agent Steel exists, provided that listeners are content to venture into more jarring waters along with their beloved wailing and shredding. From my perspective, the best feature of the album is its memorability, alongside the fact that I’m rarely reminded of other bands while it’s playing. Far from signalling a final death for Toxik, Dis Morta is vital listening.

Author: Edmund Morton

Edmund is from Slough, England and has lived in Hefei, China since 2014. As the saying goes: where the head is, home is. His head is filled with heavy metal and wry thoughts.

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