Stars In Toledo – Stars In Toledo

In the ironically titled “A Peek Behind the Curtain,” Stars in Toledo distribute a sonic smokescreen of larger than life riffs that crush us with their weight only seconds into the song. The enormity of the music isn’t isolated to this instance alone in the twelve titanic tracks that make up the band’s self-titled debut, but it could be said that this is perhaps the heaviest and most unforgiving of grooves that you’ll discover in the album.

The breakneck “99 Problems” definitely gives it a run for its money, as does the Van Hagar-style “Baby Banzai,” but even when Stars in Toledo is cranking the volume well past ten and dispatching rhythm in a violent vortex of crunchy chords, alt-rock crooning and lightning bolt-lyricism that magnifies the already evocative design of the music propelling it into our hearts, they’re always staying on a focused path and including big hooks inside of every chorus. Tracks like “Get Me Right” are a primal metal meld as much as they are heavy rocking pop tunes, and that’s not something that you, I or anyone can find all that often anymore.

Much like “Get Me Right,” the galloping “While We’re Waiting” and stadium-rocking “Rnr 24 7 365” use pop song structures in weaving an inescapable web of righteous riffing around us, but they’re not even close to being saturated with radio rock plasticity.

There’s an angst-ridden howl penetrating all of these songs in the form of a visceral vocal track that spellbinds us with its startlingly flexible harmonizing, and aside from the immaculate ballad “Be Your Man,” it’s always joined by an earthshaking bassline that complements the natural timbre of our lead singer’s voice exquisitely.

Don’t Wanna Talk” is probably my favorite song from Stars in Toledo, as it not only encapsulates the molten hot tonality of the band at their peak performance levels, but moreover, it sums up their approach to songwriting without oversimplifying their inventive style of attack.

A colleague of mine said recently that the problem with the modern rock n’ roll band is that they don’t know how to make a full-length album without inevitably recycling recipes of their biggest influences, but I think that this record goes a long way towards defying that theory.

Stars in Toledo clearly love classic rock, but other than the warm, tube-amplified grind in their guitars, they’re doing stuff on this record that doesn’t remind me of anyone in their contemporary scene or those who came before it.

The opening trio of “Take It to the Breakdown,” “Hold on to Yesterday” and “Mavericks” has the look and feel of a three-song medley that could be extended into a 20-minute jam live, while “Without You Here” hypnotizes us in what is easily the most melodic slice of pop in Stars in Toledo, but the tracks gel together magnificently, as if they were specifically meant to be heard in this deliberately dramatic order.

No matter how you listen to this album, whether straight through without interruption or in an experimental shuffle session, my gut says that these future Iowa icons are going to keep you coming back for more of their unique brand of heartfelt hard rock time and time again.

If you enjoyed a preview from Stars In Toledo’s self-titled debut album, check out their official website by clicking here. Give them a like on Facebook by clicking here. Pick up the album on Bandcamp by clicking here.

Eric Jarvis

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