As we enter a new decade, the traditional metal revival continues in full gear. In the midst of this, one niche is creeping up again: groups paying tribute to the idiosyncrasies of 80s European scenes. There are a handful of these bands, such as the short-lived Tobias Lindqvist (Enforcer) project Terminal – a faithful rendition of 80s Central/Eastern Bloc metal. Others include Helvetets Port, who emulate the somewhat goofy aesthetics and sounds of early Swedish metal like Gotham City and Heavy Load. Then there is the recent Meurtriéres EP, a release that owes as much to Sortilége and Blaspheme as it does to Iron Maiden.
Toca Madera are another act joining the fray, playing in the vein of early 80s Spanish Metal like Barón Rojo, Ángeles del Infierno and Panzer (the name is a reference to their most famous album) among others. The band was formed in 2014 by Victor and José as a cover band; in 2018 they decided to begin recording an EP. With 5 songs clocking in roughly at 25 minutes, the self-titled EP captures the exact feel of those first Spanish records: a gritty, unpolished tribute that sounds somewhere between late 70s hard rock, early NWOBHM and edging on speed metal at times.
The first thing that will strike most listeners is the clarity of the production and how distinguishable each instrument sounds. Despite this being a first release EP, it is glaringly obvious all the members in the groups are experienced songwriters and this is not their first musical output. In fact, ¾ of the line-up is in some way related to Witchtower, one of Spain’s best new traditional metal acts. Special mention must be made of Victor’s bass work, which provides a strong rhythmic support during the entire release. His vocal performance is great as well, alternating between a more harmonic approach to a raspier Halford-esque low. Both guitarists José and Antonio do a good job of complimenting each other with the latter playing glitzy leads and memorable guitar solos. The drummer, Jose, brings some aggression to the mix with shades of Philthy Animal and Clive Burr.
Despite the few songs present, they all feel varied and drawing from a different pool of influences. For instance, “No Matarás”, is a fast and punk-influenced opener with infectious d-beat style drumming and sweet guitar harmonies that bring to mind Motorhead and Mazo. “Polvos Mágicos” and “Sudor y Frío” slow down the tempo considerably, focusing more on making punchy sing-alongs. “No Mata el Aire” has is very anthemic, including some of the strongest guitar work present with Antonio playing what has to be the best solo on the record.
While these 4 tracks are all strong in their own accord, the closer “Énfrentate a él” is the highlight of the record. By far the most aggressive and closest track to speed metal, the comparisons to Judas Priest’s Screaming for Vengeance are tempting – but I would instead compare Victor’s croaky vocals to Juan Gallardo of Ángeles del Infierno and the song owing as much to the British stalwarts as it does to Santa. The visceral and soaring nature of the track is a great way to close off the record and leaves you wanting more.
As we all know, 2019 was a very strong year for traditional metal and it’s easy to see why Toca Madera’s EP may have gone un-noticed. Nonetheless it deserves praise for being a faithful ode to a small and unrecognized scene. These five tracks will transport you back to early 80s Spain and everything the scene was about back then – Chapa Discos, Vallecas, and macarras.
Favorite track: Énfrentate a él