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Toxik: Dis Morta

Over the last decade or so many of the great metal bands that came out of the 80’s and died off in the 90’s have been handed a new lease on life by a metal fan base that has been eager for the return of the originators. One such band that I personally have been hoping would return, with a new album, is the New York legends, Toxik. Dis Morta is the band's first full length album since 1989’s drop dead classic Think This and though the band have produced some very good EP’s in recent years, since their reformation, the release of Dis Morta is sure to make a lot of fans, myself included, very happy to see their return.

Toxik were a band that employed a very sophisticated level of technicality and even dabbled in progressive tendencies while crafting their electrifying brand of Thrash. The question is have the band, led as always by guitar master Josh Christian, been able to maintain this level of creative prowess or has time diminished their abilities? Some of the legends of the past have been able to come back as strong as ever while others seem to have fallen into the trap of being formulaic, almost parodies of their former selves. So what is Dis Morta all about and how does it stack up?

The title track opens the album with what sounds like the description of some ancient biblical battle before the song comes in hard with a fairly slow and heavy riff. Before long we are treated to the first of many lead guitar barrages from Josh Christian who shows that he still is a true powerhouse of a player. His intricate and explosive solos and lead breaks are one of Dis Morta’s absolute highlights. New singer Ron Iglesias remains encamped in the upper registers for the vast majority of the album and definitely fits in well into the revamped line-up. I still think Mike Sanders was the best Toxik singer but Ron certainly has the chops and contributes well to the songwriting.

One of the things that always set Toxik apart was their ability to take you in unexpected directions yet also have strong and memorable melodies. On Dis Morta they seem to have mostly reclaimed that ability, however perhaps only after multiple listens. The production leaves a little to be desired. With the vocals and guitars getting a bit muddy at times with everything sounding a bit overly compressed as well. Also another issue I have is the lyrical content. I know anti-Christian themes are popular in metal but personally I find it all a bit immature and boring. However I know many fans like it when bands shit on Christianity so I’m sure I’m not representing the masses on that particular gripe.

Besides those few issues though Dis Morta is fantastic and a big step up from the EPs they’d released since reconstituting a few years ago. Songs like “The Radical” are pure high speed thrash excitement and are loaded with plenty of muscle, but also a high level of dazzling technicality. The trademark Toxik melodies are there to be found on the first single, “Power”, as they are throughout, and of course the guitars once again are absolutely killer. Josh was always one of my favorite thrash guitarists and he is reasserting himself in that position with this album in my estimation. Fantastic, fiery and expressive stuff. I don’t want to overlook the rhythm section either. Guitarist Eric Van Druten, drummer James DeMaria and bass player Shane Boulos are all equally important to the power, precision and overall insanity. “Hyper Reality” is another example of the band seamlessly melding their trademark insane riffing and rhythms with catchy and memorable melodies on the vocals. There is also a progressive element to the tech thrash which is on display. However anyone familiar with Toxik’s classic albums, especially Think This, and even World Circus, to a lesser degree, will not be surprised by that feature. The band have claimed in their press release that Dis Morta is the natural continuation from Think This and while they are sonically quite different, on an elemental level there are many similarities and I can see what the band was thinking by making that claim. This is probably the heaviest the band has ever sounded as well, but it’s hard to tell if that’s a product of modern production or the music itself being any heavier. I suspect it’s the former. I’d be interested to see how this material will stack up in a live setting in comparison to their classic material.

Another interesting feature is the occasional inclusion of what seem like cultural melodies injected around the place. I’m sure I picked up the odd Russian anthem-like melody and Japanese folk music line here or there. But certainly not in an obvious way, and perhaps I’m reading too much into it, but to my ears it sounds like it’s by design.

It’s worth noting that the band sound as youthful and energetic as ever and Dis Morta relentlessly goes for the throat at all times. I will say that because of the complexity of the material and the muddy production sound, the album did feel a little impenetrable on the first few listens, at least from a melodic point of view. It is clear from the first listen, however, that the band has brought an impressive level of technical ability to the table and so that should bring you back for more, enough times for the melodies, which are strong, to eventually sink in. One of the few slight diversions on Dis Morta comes with the quasi-ballad intro to “Devil In The Mirror”, but it’s only a minute or so before the song erupts back into the high speed thrash attack, again laced with all the wonderful diversity, guitar ornamentations and electricity. Dis Morta closes with one of the most instantly memorable songs, the thrash beast, “Judas”. The intro riff almost sounds Tool-like, but once the band kicks in it’s more Toxik style insanity. The verses and chorus almost remind me of the melodic tendencies of bands like Jane's Addiction or early Muse, but with much more power, insanity and of course technicality. A great song to wrap up the album.

So to answer the question of how does this album stack up with their past classics, I think only time will tell. However musically this album is truly excellent. It is somewhat demanding as it requires the listener to invest in multiple listings, to truly reap the rewards, but the rewards are many and well worth the time. Dis Morta is a force to be reckoned with and only highlights the fact that Toxik have lost nothing with the passage of time.

Ron Iglesias: Vocals
Josh Christian: Lead Guitar
Eric van Druten: Rhythm Guitar
Shane Boulos: Bass
James DeMaria: Drums

1. Dis Morta
2. Feeding Frenzy
3. The Radical
4. Power
5. Hyper Reality
6. Creating The Abyss
7. Straight Razor
8. Chasing Mercury
9. Devil In The Mirror
10. Judas

Added: July 31st 2022
Reviewer: Benjamin Dudai
Related Link: Band Website
Hits: 577
Language: english

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