Today I bring you the third review in a row featuring an unsigned band. Perhaps this is the result of my obsessive compulsion to constantly seek out new bands and music, driving me to hunt for ever more obscure artists. Maybe it is my desire to help out unsigned bands that I find interesting. Probably it is a combination of both these things. Regardless of the reason that drove me to hear this band, the ultimate reason I am covering them is that they make good music, so I feel inclined to tell the world.
Tonic Breed is a thrash metal band from Norway and “Outsold” is their second album. I received a CD copy of the album in the mail recently, and since I don’t frequently get packages from Norway (although, more often than one might think) I vowed to give the album a listen. I have to admit that the album cover put me off a little at first. The artwork style is one that I have come to associate with not-so-great thrash albums, so it didn’t really draw me in right away. Despite this, I grabbed the CD and popped it into my car’s player and gave it an initial listen on the way to the gym.
The first song, “Strife”, in retrospect, didn’t really do much for me other than confirm that the band was at least better than I was expecting based on the impression left by the artwork. To be fair, I was only half listening at this point. So it wasn’t until the second song, “Fifth Estate”, that I was shaken from my driving reverie and realized, wow, these guys ARE actually pretty good. I started the song over and listened again.
I think what really caught my attention about “Fifth Estate” was that it reminds me quite a bit of Forbidden from their “Forbidden Evil”-era, both in the style of thrash and the vocal phrasing. From this point on I gave the album my undivided attention (while still managing to drive.)
When I got home I listened to the album again to be sure I was hearing what I thought I was hearing, and confirmed that “Outsold” is in fact as good as I thought it might be. A lot of thrash bands these days (understandably so) have a more modern sounding thrash style that builds upon the foundation of the classic sound from the 80s. That is all well and good, but I still hunger for that original sound from my youth, and “Outsold” has that in spades, without sounding particularly dated, contrived or derivative.
This isn’t to say I don’t hear bits and pieces of influence or similarity in the Tonic Breed’s music. As I already mentioned I hear some Forbidden, and at different points I also noticed some parts that reminded me of Slayer’s “Born of Fire” and a melodic lead that brought to mind the intro for Metallica’s “Fade to Black.” I was even briefly reminded of Flotsam & Jetsam’s “E.M.T.E.K.” by some of the cleaner passages on “Blackened Mind.” We are all products of our environment and influences, so this is to be expected. I was just happy to be hearing music in this style, and to find that it is more than competently done.
Tonic Breed reinforces my growing belief that music, and particularly metal, can one day survive and even thrive without need of the corporate machine. Money for proper promotion remains one of the last road blocks to complete creative independence. The business of music is changing, hopefully for the better.
Check out the track “Blackened Mind” below, and then head over to iTunes and pick up the whole album. It is a great listen and you’ll be supporting an unsigned band; part of the true metal underground. Also, make sure to check out episode 4 of Metal Disciple’s Metal Heads podcast this week, when we will be talking about the band and playing a pair of tracks from the album. You can download Metal Heads for free in the iTunes store podcast section or you can stream it from WeAreMetalHeads.com.