Twenty three years after their debut album, UK thrashers Toranaga have returned from a long absence with a new album and what a thunderous storm of a release it is. Many bands return after a long time away and struggle to find that essence which lit up their initial presence or to write tracks which have the same intensity and potency which marked them in the first place. There is no fear with this Yorkshire quintet as Righteous Retribution goes straight for the jugular chewing up the listener with slabs of muscular threat as aggressive and lethal as anything the band has carved before.
Formed in 1988 by bassist Andy Burton, vocalist Mark Duffy, drummer Steve Todd, and guitarist Andy Mitchell, Toranaga made an immediate impression with their debut album Bastard Ballads, the Peaceville Records released provocateur earning strong responses and leading to the band extensively gigging across the UK. It also drew in strong radio play with the likes of Tommy Vance on the BBC Rock Show and sparked an invitation to open up for Manowar on their UK tour. Snapped up soon after by Chrysalis Records, the band released second album God’s Gift in the spring of 1990 which was covered in even greater acclaim. Tours and shows with the likes of Sabbat, Venom, Saxon, Metal Church, Uriah Heep and Annihilator followed as the stature of the band rose, though sadly their record label was one which did not offer the support the band needed to progress and develop which led to their departure from it the following year. From here internal conflict made its presence known within Toranaga and not long after the band called it a day.
Then in 2010 though Burton got in touch with Todd and Duffy about writing new songs together as Toranaga. With positive feedback the trio came together and set about searching for a guitarist to replace Mitchell who had emigrated to Australia in 2006. With a line-up completed by Shane Haigh and John Rodgers the band set forth into a studio to record Righteous Retribution with Mik Crone. Eighteen months in creation, Righteous Retribution makes up for those absent years of the band with an instant forearm smash between the eyes with the first full storm after the opening introduction Portam AD Infernum. As it ravages the senses it is as if the band has never been away but equally sets them up as a new and still refreshing weapon for thrash/heavy metal. The self-released tempest moves through the evocative introduction seemingly eager to unleash its sinews which within seconds of the following Traitors Gate it does and in rapacious style. Riffs are helping themselves to submission with their voracious and heavy provocation whilst the rhythms of Todd punch and jab like a heavyweight moving swiftly with rapid rabidity. Duffy maybe surprisingly, soon shows he has not lost any of his strength and animosity, his vocal attack welcoming and grizzled, infectious and gnarly. The track has a definite Metallica/Exodus like breath which arguably was expected but equally the track stomps across the passions with a hunger and contagion which is pure Toranaga.
The outstanding start is instantly backed up by the scintillating Cynical Eyes, the song another savage but anthemic lure which commands feet, voice, and emotions. Jagged riffs and the perpetually predacious basslines frame the snarling vocal squalls whilst a carnivorous emerging waspish groove wraps teasingly around the rhythmic veining. Thrash at its most compulsive and vengeful, the track is a massive highlight of not only the album but the year, certainly in its chosen breed of genre. Both songs are so potent and dynamic that it leaves the remaining songs almost too much to emulate but boy do they do their very best.
Both The Ultimate Act Of Betrayal and I Must Destroy reap the rewards of a rigorous hunger spawned by their predecessors, the first springing from a slow and evocative intro to launch a tirade of twisted riffs and exhausting rhythms ridden by the continuing to impress vocals of Duffy and band, whilst the second grows from a crawling start into a stalking of the ear with predatory riffs guided by an incendiary groove sculpting a trap for the passions which is sprung by excellent breaks and sonic stabs as well as the scorching guitar enterprise. The pair reinforces the epic start with craft and guile, whilst the following Return Of The Gods with its almost stoner like tease and acidic grooves lays down another rung on the climb to ardour being built by the album.
As well as unleashing riveting heart capturing sounds Toranaga ensure diversity and imagination is present in strength too, The Beginning Of The End igniting yet another blaze of invention and variety with a groove metal hue to its classic metal suggestiveness as it wraps melodic and expressive weaves of hot guitar intrigue around the again crisply commanding rhythms and vocals. Adrenaline rushes through the veins of Prove Me Wrong like boiling blood next, its life force thrusting the song into a high octane fuelled temptation with rich heavy metal antagonism whilst the seductive Judas Priest whispering Something Evil and the primal almost bestial Battle Cry with excellent guttural growls adding their black menace to the barbarous confrontation, only cement the large spread of sound and ideas upon the album.
Finished by the magnetic Rise From The Flames and the outstanding I Play God with its persistent grinding probing and deliberately intensive intimidation, Righteous Retribution is a masterful and thoroughly thrilling encounter. Easily one of our favourite releases this year, Toranaga show that they have not only returned as strong as before but have found something extra to give current bands a real run for their money.
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