Friday 20 September 2019

Toxikull - Cursed and Punished (2019)

Country: Portugal
Style: Heavy/Thrash Metal
Rating: 8/10
Release Date: 13 Sep 2019
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Following on from Anifernyen's black/death metal album, here's another album from Portugal that isn't instrumental psychedelic rock. Toxikull hail from Cascais, just outside Lisbon, and they're pretty versatile in their take on eighties metal, effortlessly moving between genres without ever losing their infectious energy. In a few ways, they do a similar job to Dream Tröll, but at the heavier end of the musical spectrum.

Certainly the first couple of songs are old school speed metal, the sort of Overkill fast and frenetic that blisters past us so quickly that we have to go back to really take stock of what they did. It's Killer Night where they betray their roots: Accept by way of Judas Priest. On songs like this that unfold at a mid-pace, those are the bands that spring to mind. When they add speed to that, like on Helluminate, they become reminiscent of early Helloween but with wilder vocals that remind more of Exciter.

There are two lead vocalists here, one of whom is wilder and higher than the other. I don't know which of them is which, but they're Antim 'The Viking' and Lex Thunder, which is one of the most eighties names I've ever seen. In case you're expecting him to actually be Mr. & Mrs. Thunder's boy, I should add that he founded this band in 2016 with his brother, Michael Blade, so I think they just like the eighties so much they don't want to leave it, even when signing their names. I can't fault them for that.

Senhors Thunder and Blade are the guitarists in the band and their riffs and solos often bring a NWOHBM feel to the album. Sometimes they're Iron Maiden and sometimes they're Diamond Head, but their guitarwork is always welcome. There are guitar highlights everywhere here, but I'm going to call out Dark Glory, not only because the changes are delightful but because they keep on coming, defying the mere three minute running time, and are done well enough for the vocals to come in and out without it ever seeming forced.

As if to emphasise how little the band care about trends, they even add an overt layer of epic cheese to songs like Sacred Whip and The Revival, which is a sort of intro to Rising Dust. These have an unashamed Manowar vibe and make about as much sense. I mean, was the former song really written about self-flagellation for religious purposes or is it just kinky for the hell of it? I have a feeling that it's the latter.

So they're a pretty versatile band, starting out as speed metal but showing their heavy metal roots with NWOBHM guitarwork and then adding power metal for good measure. They move effortlessly back and forth between these genres so that few songs can safely be described as only one. I presume that their own preferred definition sees the light on Speed Blood Metal, with precisely the chorus you expect: "Give me speed! Give me blood! Give me metal!" This one sounds rather like Raven, another obvious influence.

And, even with only one song left, they keep on varying their style, because In the Name of Evil reminds of a few European bands, most obviously Mercyful Fate. Like a few albums this year, we might have believed this to be a lost release from the eighties except that the production is undeniably modern. I realise that every time an album like this sends me back to revisit some old favourites, finding that they're as wild and energetic as I remember but are wrapped in annoyingly thin production.

Notwithstanding the prevalance of stoner/psychedelic rock albums coming out of Portugal, I really should dig into more of the other styles being played there, because if they're all like Anifernyen and Toxikull, then I moved out of England in the wrong direction.

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