Toledo Steel – Zero Hour
Stretch your neck, practice your high notes, let’s do the time-warp again.
I’ve been excited for this EP for a long time, so excited in fact, I even managed to pre-order it twice, on different occasions. Instantly obsessed after catching Southampton’s finest purveys of new-NWOBHM supporting Canadian trad-heroes Cauldron in 2012, Toledo Steel’s twin-guitar lead classic metal, combined with Rich Rutter’s unmistakable sky-high vocal hooks has kept their solid fanbase desperate for a follow-up to 2012’s debut three-track EP.
Finally arriving in February, Zero Hour is slicker in production than its self-titled predecessor, and more importantly double the length, featuring established live favourites Fallen Empire and Speed Killer, as well as three new tracks.
For newer fans and those unfamiliar with Toledo Steel, Zero Hour can be surmised as traditional heavy metal: the staple ingredients of guitar melodies, blistering solos, galloping bass lines, and gravity defying vocals covered in excess. But for those familiar with the band, there’s a bit more to it…
First and foremost, in-line with the rather ill-fitting, sci-fi-esque cover art – and impossible to ignore for anymore words – what the hell are these electronics about?! The intro track is permissible: sounding like the ‘futuristic’ soundtrack to an 80’s dystopian sci-fi film, in a way it sets the premise for the vintage metal about to follow, but the addition of some odd, electronic noodling on first-track-proper Fallen Empire and then the suspicious keyboard inflections thereafter are not only unnecessary but are a concerning tendency for future output.
Additionally, in comparison to the unrestrained vigour of the previous release and their hypersonic live show, at times the movement of Zero Hour seems slightly less vital and the pace less rampant. However, I’m almost certain this is a phenomenon attributable to the EP’s production, and regardless the tracks are still undeniably Toledo Steel and therefore unavoidably catchy – do not be surprised to find yourself singing along to the second choruses of City Lights and final track Toledo Steel on the first spin – or at least attempting to.
As a confessed Toledo Steel super-fan, it’s hard to be critical, and it’s harder to be a little disappointed, but saying that, it’s still the brilliantly trad, classic heavy metal assault I wanted from the band. Moreover, I can’t wait to eat my words in a month’s time, when after their Scottish mini-tour, I’m certain the newer tracks will come into their own on stage and those choruses will steeeeeeerike equal heights alongside old classics Black Widow and Alcatraz…(7/10).