Toska_coverThere’s definitely something bubbling away in Iceland at the moment and, for once, it isn’t hot springs or tongue twisting volcanoes; it’s metal of the underground and extreme variety, particularly black metal it seems.

Inspired by the works of Polish Neoromantic poet Tadeusz Micinski (1873-1918) rather than the plethora of Icelandic poets this is another classy and idiosyncratic debut from the island of fire and ice.

The short opening instrumental ‘From The Starless Night ‘ might have come from the Solefald masterpiece The Linear Scaffold, but this is quickly buried beneath the icy blast of ‘Night I – Algid Gales’. It is harsh, cold and bitter stuff but with a broad stroke of melody to it and a fine touch to the keyboards that add sweep and atmosphere to the tempo changes but somehow stay back from either symphonic or progressive touches. Vocals, like the Icelandic volcanic heart, rasp, mutter and growl just a layer beneath the music to add a mythic quality. Excellent stuff. ‘Night II – Throbbing Tumulus’ again has a touch of the Solefald debut to the guitar tone melody but again has a colder, harsher tone. Rather like countrymen Misþyrming, Toska seem to have an utterly instinctive grasp of how to change tempo with haunting melody without blunting the sharp edge but here the effect conjures up cold natural vistas and natural tides rather than Misþyrming’s apocalyptic fires. ‘Night III-Iced Spires’ is another extraordinary song; Burzum minimalism, Solefald’s rural melodies, .. In The Woods eerie atmosphere and a riffing style unafraid to flirt with hints of traditional heavy metal. Breathtaking, headlong and awe inspiring. Another instrumental, the rain soaked ‘Spirit Of The Winter Moon’ brings a quiet clearing, a held moment, before ‘Night IV – The Howling Descent’ which pretty much delivers what it says; a rattling, harsh, choppy plummet into the depths. ‘Night V – Blizzard Tales’ ends things in blurring, whirling fashion, a fitting end to their first release.

Honestly this is a fantastic debut EP; deft, thoughtful, harsh, atmospheric and bristling with musical intelligence. With songs around the four minute mark Toska waste no time with flabby self-indulgence while their musicality draws in more atmosphere than most black metal bands do in eight. Make no mistake this is a full on black metal sound; not a hint of post-rock infection or shoegaze boredom. In some respects it is traditional early nineties in style but in others as modern as you’d wish with intricate melodic threads and rhythmic agility.

Borderline brilliant. Outstanding. Get it before it erupts.

(9/10 Gizmo)