Toundra ~ Hex

Where would Madrid’s Toundra head after their re-score of Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari?  The natural progression was to make a film that would be wholly theirs.  Directed by Jorge Carbajales, the 22-minute “El Odio” (“Hatred”) explores the cycle of anger, rage and regret, while the score fills the entire first side of Hex.  These are violent times, and there is violence within us all.  In “El Odio,” the band gives in to a wide swath of emotions, leaving itself and the listener spent, in much the same manner as the video’s protagonist.  With this track, they earn comparison to some of the legends found on the Inside Out roster, including Yes, Jethro Tull and Dream Theater, three veteran bands who incorporate extended instrumental segments in their works.

“El Odio” has many stages, more than the three parts indicated on the album.  The first push to driving drums and surging guitars occurs in the opening minutes; the stereo effects come to the fore at the start of the second part, which also includes a near-stop at the center; and while some sections are slower, none are actually slow.  Perhaps the most remarkable facet of the piece is that the melodic theme emerges only when 3:50 remains in the overall work.  This memorable moment operates as consonance in the song, but as regret in the video, as an old man in a wheelchair looks out over the ruins of his life.  While the band ends the video with what first seems like an act of kindness, they ultimately walk away, leaving the man with fantasies and phantasms.

The songs of Side B match Side A in sound, but not in scope, but none would expect them to do so.  Each track on Side B is a more succinct representation of Toundra timbres, moving imperceptibly between the neighboring fields of rock, post-rock, math rock, progressive rock and metal.  While we’d prefer a little more dynamic contrast (loud-quiet-loud instead of loud-loud-loud), there’s no denying the visceral power.  Once touring resumes, fans will need to invest in earplugs to avoid tinnitus.  The exception: the electronic-tinged “FIN,” which provides the opportunity to muse on the message:  if you tolerate this, your children will be next.  (Richard Allen)

Available here

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