The year was two thousand and fourteen, year of our Lord. The band was Morbus Chron. And it was their time to release Sweven, an album that would become known as a progressive death metal masterpiece. Yet, it was also the beginning of the end for Morbus Chron. Or perhaps it was simply the end. That album can be discussed in detail but suffice it to say that the fact that it landed on our 100 Essential Albums of the Decade list speaks volumes about the complexity and sheer talent that went into making it. That album simply RULES.
Some of the other members seem, in retrospect, overly sick of the complexity involved in producing progressive death metal of the quality that Morbus Chron was unleashing. Dag Landig and Edvin Aftonfalk, along with former member Isak Koskinen Rosemarin, seemingly decided that they wanted to get their swagger out and rip some speedy metal laced with punk and hardcore influences. Thus, they put together Tøronto to fulfill that need. Comparing Sweven and Tøronto might be ridiculous because their sounds are so absolutely different but it’s essentially impossible to avoid given their similarity in origins. And it’s absolutely baffling that these two sounds were born of Morbus Chron, yet also completely understandable why the band decided to go their separate ways. These sounds are, how you say, incompatible.
So, first things first when discussing Tøronto on their own. While billed as speed metal Tøronto is actually a punk outfit. You might have assumed that from the very stereotypically (in a great way) cover. If that doesn’t convince you, a spin of the album will lead you two-stepping down an alley filled with broken glass and missing left shoes. Pollen bothering you? Tøronto has all the snottiness you’ll need this season. Pure attitude and singable choruses lead to a very fun, classic and British punk experience.
The second track, “Fire in Sight,” is a blistering roll through gang vocals, kick-snare rhythms and snotty vocals spat angrily into a dented microphone. The production, on the other hand, is rather sparkling for tracks like this and the touch of reverb on the vocals adds an aura of personality and warmth to their anger. Eddie Flawless (formerly of Obnoxious Youth) delivers vocals in a few manners but most endearingly in a melodic spit that borders on pop punk at times, having the effect of drawing the listener into the attitude of the tune. These are tracks for breaking cue balls in the basement of your local VFW, or perhaps just for chipping a few teeth on some Budweiser bottles. The point: prepare your body for movement.
Most of the songs hang in at just around three minutes, and the longest, “Ride the Rails,” doesn’t even hit four minutes. Said track provides a more laid back punk attack. You might recognize the influences here pouring out of England and NYC in the mid-1970s. The solo even takes a step back into the rock and roll days, dialing back the showmanship in favor of character and aura. The resulting song is a jaunty adventure that encourages singing along as well as stomping your foot to the beat. All in all, it proves that Tøronto is actually fun when all is said and done. Sure it’s rad to blow snot rockets at the mayor but it’s also fun to chat about it with your pals and plan for the divisive gesture!
So, I see you sitting there asking me, “But Manny, can’t I find some fun punk just about anywhere?” Sure. You could just Google punk and hit play on the first YouTube video that comes up. You could be an expert and read Craig’s In Crust We Trust pieces proudly hosted here on Last Rites. What Tøronto brings to the game that you can’t just find anywhere is a combination of pure talent and energy with an execution in production that draws heavily from the early days of death metal. The combination of the two provides a certain grittier edge to their output than you would find in their British counterparts or similar American hardcore bands. Just enough fuzz and oomph is pushed through the pickups of each guitar while the drums remain precise and clean in their support role. And the solos… You don’t often find punksters who can simply shred, tap and wail like these guys. It’s punk for people who have discriminating taste but also appreciate songs titled “Frostbite Bitch.”
While the world lost what could have been with Morbus Chron, the benefits of getting both Tøronto and Sweven out of the deal seem pretty sweet. You can satisfy two very different moods by listening to the children of one band. Tøronto is the perfect spin when you’re feeling pissed off, ready for trouble or just in the mood for a damn good time. You can crack some beers, drink a beet juice or just open up a slightly jostled bottle of kombucha. The world is yours. As Darkthrone says, “leave no cross unturned,” and Tøronto certainly take that to heart on their punky, upbeat rocker Under Siege. Enjoy this one and do not simply overlook it because of a lack of surface complexity. The devil, and the enjoyment, is in the details.