Stars in Toledo’s self-titled debut is here!


Making an original rock record that is true to the mainstream model without borrowing too much from the genre’s storied past and iconic forerunners is no easy task in 2019, but in Stars in Toledo’s self-titled debut, the American quintet makes it look all too simple from one track to the next. They bring the heavy metal thunder in “A Peek Behind the Curtain,” velvet vocals and guitar virtuosity in “Rnr 24 7 365,” pop/rock resilience in “Hold on to Yesterday,” and all-out melodic mayhem in “Don’t Wanna Talk Anymore,” and though they’re not a household name yet, they sport a sound that is as sharp and inviting as any I’ve heard in years.

The vocal harmonies are rich with texture and as bright as a new day’s sunlight in “Don’t Wanna Talk Anymore,” “Without You Here” and “Mavericks,” but they never manage to steal all of the spotlight away from the riffs that they adorn. You can tell that the chemistry between the players in this band is one hundred percent natural in every one of these songs, as they seem to play off of each other’s cues seamlessly and without any external assistance from behind the soundboard.

If it’s grade-A guitar tones that you’re looking for this spring, “Hold on to Yesterday,” “Baby Banzai” and “99 Bottles” have got you covered for pretty much any occasion that you could fathom. The strings define the character of the music in these tracks, as well as in the stripped-down ballad “Be Your Man,” which might be the most poignant song included onStars in Toledo. These cats are really adept at conquering grooves of virtually any shape or size in the hot and heavy material here, but in a slow setting, they demonstrate just as much passion and panache as they do in a stormy volume swell – something that we could only hope to see and hear in their commercially-bankrolled contemporaries.

Lyrically, Stars in Toledo is actually a pretty progressive record. It’s not a concept piece in the traditional sense, but I definitely feel like it has a deeper narrative beneath the surface of its twelve toned tracks. The guitar-slinging discord that frames the blustery melodies in the vocal track of songs like “Take It to the Breakdown” and “Get Me Right” is giving us some context for the story being told in the verses, and best of all, these words never drift into the realm of bombastic camp as they would in a standard progressive rock album.

I’m really looking forward to seeing this band live at some point. Everything that I’m hearing in Stars in Toledo’s first LP tells me that not only were these guys destined to play this material live, but moreover, these heroic harmonies and carnal riff-rocking grooves represent only a fraction of the quaking depth of physicality that this group would be able to dish out on stage. They’ve got a heck of a formula that they’re applying rather brilliantly in this debut, and after they get some more miles under their belt on the road, I have a feeling that their music is going to be a real force to be reckoned with.


Michael Rand

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