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Introducing Limelight band Toska

Toska

Line-up: Rabea Massaad (guitar), Dave Hollingworth (bass), Ben Minal (drums)

Sounds like: Space age instrumental metal that uses dark riffs to create vast cosmic landscapes

Current release: Fire By The Silos is out now

Website: www.toska.tv

To help further the cause of up and coming new progressive music, each week we'll be bringing you one of the current issue's Limelight acts, complete with music to listen to. Remember, today's progressive music comes in all manner of guises, and it's important to support the grass roots of prog... 

When you’re in a band, there is no substitute for chemistry. You can be the best musician on the planet, but if you can’t connect with the other members of your group, you won’t be climbing the ladder of success any time soon. Luckily, this isn’t a problem that plagues Brighton’s cosmic instrumentalists Toska.

Despite Toska only debuting in February 2016 with their Ode To The Author EP, the power trio of guitarist Rabea Massaad, bassist Dave Hollingworth and drummer Ben Minal have been playing together in a plethora of different bands for over a decade.

“The first band was ChasinJade, which was a teenage passion project,” Massaad recalls of their metal beginnings. “I met Dave first. I was at Leeds College Of Music when I was 16. I was just jamming in a room and he came in. He was like, ‘You sound pretty good! Wanna jam?’ Four or five months later, I met Ben through the singer of ChasinJade. When Dave and Ben came to jam, it seemed the three of us just had that mutual connection between us. That was 13 years ago now!”

Fear not, ChasinJade’s metal is a far cry from the experimental, cinematic heaviness that Massaad and co now specialise in. After the band’s 2012 split, its three instrumentalists stuck together, refining their repertoire by playing for bands Toseland, Dorje and, ultimately, Toska. Interestingly, despite the trio’s technical prowess, Toska is their first-ever purely instrumental outing.

“We initially auditioned singers,” Massaad reveals, “but it just didn’t happen. Then we did the first EP, so we thought, ‘Let’s just stick this out!’ Because of bands like Animals As Leaders, we felt that there was a level of relevance to instrumental prog. Plus, we’ve experienced other singers saying ‘Can we chop this or shorten that?’ while we’d be thinking, ‘Oh, those are good bits!’”

Unlike some other instrumental acts, Toska prove on their first full-length release, Fire By The Silos, that there’s more to them than just swanky shredding and showing off. The 70-minute concept album balances Massaad, Hollingworth and Minal’s obvious talents with the heaviness of pounding grooves and the ambience of spoken-word interludes. When all of these elements combine on tracks like Prayermonger, the result is a dark, atmospheric journey befitting of the album’s dystopian storyline.

“It’s set 20 years from now,” Massaad explains. “The government requires people under a certain wage to pay their debts by, basically, being cast out from society. And it focuses on one individual’s mental journey through this. Throughout the album, he gets more angry and twisted, but then he realises, because of that, that he’s no better than the people he wanted to stand up against.”

On Fire By The Silos, Toska challenge with ethical quandaries that accompany their hard-hitting metal. With the complexity of its music and its concept, it goes without saying that the album is a triumphant leap forward for these progressive comrades.