Toughness - The Prophetic Dawn (Godz ov War)

Polish young ‘uns Toughness are the latest band to undertake the tricky balancing act that is the old-school death metal (OSDM) sound. Do they avoid clonedom and provide a unique vision, without losing the tumultuous sound of their predecessors?

From the opener’s teetering prelude, production and timbre are a delight. A roiling electric storm is conjured between two guitars, drums tumbling like a rockfall. Bass strings are hurled around, thick and loose as buffeted telegraph cables. Phlegm-smattered vocals nod to Demilich’s glorious insanity, but unlike many modern Findeath acolytes, Toughness are grounded thoroughly in the brimstone-baked ass-kicking of Immolation. Their absurdist streak emerges vividly in moments like the split-second acoustic ejaculation in “Other Insalubrious Beings”, but exists mainly as fuel for deranged yet brutal instrumental performances. The bass, reminiscent of fellow OSDM innovators Faceless Burial, injects itself into the space where the guitar uses its weight for more atmospheric purposes. The solos are the band’s most devious feature; not face-ripping bolts of lightning, but instead the eerie eye of the storm. “The Infernal Travellings”’ stop-start hurricane leads into jazzy, Cynical noodling, underpinned by a squall more typical of Morbid Angel, while the lumbering chugs of “Forsaken Entity” bear witness to a twisted spasm — each of these a canny subversion that cleverly balances character with brutality.

As closer “Psychological” begins once more, its stoned, Sabbathian opening riff evolving in real time towards death metal mayhem, one can only wonder what the future holds for these maniacal upstarts.