Toledo Steel are leading the charge as the global NWOTHM scene gathers pace. But, as Rushonrock editor Simon Rushworth discovers, the Southampton band would love to see more Brits sharing the metal load.
Rich Rutter boasts the kind of brash alliterative moniker beloved of metal greats the world over.
Think Ozzy Osbourne, Biff Byford, Dimebag Darrell…the list goes on.
And, like his heavy-hitting peers, Rutter’s commitment to the metal cause is unquestionable.
As frontman with south coast crew Toledo Steel, he’s been central to a decade-long quest to curate old school riffs and preserve the passion and power at the heart of NWOBHM’s late 70s explosion.
But he’d love a helping hand.
And not just from touring buddies Seven Sisters and Eliminator as the friends and label mates get stuck into a long-awaited UK tour.
“I look at Europe and the trad metal scene is absolutely thriving over there,” said Rutter.
“But what I find so surprising is that there aren’t that many British bands doing the sort of thing we do.
“When you take into account the history of metal over here you’d imagine there’d be more.
“I’m confident that there are enough people in the UK who love their metal and even enough kids who’d like to start a trad metal band.
“But for whatever reason it just hasn’t happened yet.
“We’ve been around for 10 years now and in that time we haven’t exactly seen a flood of new metal bands breaking through.
“We’ve seen a few come and go and then there are bands like Seven Sisters and Eliminator who’ve stuck with it.
“It’s a mystery why more British bands haven’t come through.
“When you compare it to what’s happening in Europe the scene’s been slow to take off.”
This week’s Dissonance Productions triple-header aims to spark a fresh wave of interest in a movement that pushes modern metal to the limits while staying true to its NWOBHM roots.
And as Toledo Steel prepare to unleash the very best of new long player Heading For The Fire on crowds across the country, Rutter is proud to wear his metal heart on his sleeve.
“I was probably 14 when I first got into metal,” he added. “I think the first proper heavy metal track I ever heard was Run To The Hills but that was all I needed!
“I thought to myself ‘what the hell is this?” and I wanted to find more of the same.
“Prior to that I hadn’t been exposed to any heavy metal and it was a real eye-opener.
“After hearing Maiden I just had this sudden urge to check out more…and more.
“One thing led to another and suddenly my whole life revolved around heavy metal.”
Rutter quickly became a keen student of the trad metal genre and it’s no coincidence that Toledo Steel sound like a heady mix of Maiden, Priest and Tygers Of Pan Tang at their cavernous best.
But what’s the attraction of reinventing riffs hewn from the late 70s and early 80s?
And why do bands continue to breathe new life into a storied genre?
“It was the energy and vibe of the NWOBHM bands that got me into this in the first place and that’s never gone away,” explained Rutter.
“It’s rough and ready and never too polished. But it packs a real punch.
“The emotion that comes through when you watch a metal band is so real. It’s unfiltered.
“There’s no fakery from bands like Toledo Steel or Seven Sisters. We believe in what we do and we do it for the right reasons.
“And that’s why metal fans are historically so loyal. They appreciate that level of honesty and commitment and it cuts both ways.
“Some of the original NWOBHM bands never went away but many are coming back.
“They’ve seen the resurgence of interest in the genre and they’re excited to give it another crack.
“Some of those bands only put out a few songs back in the day but they’ve still got so much more to give.
“It’s great to see and we love being part of it.”
If the old stagers are staging a welcome comeback then this week’s tour is all about NWOTHM’s new blood.
Toledo Steel and Seven Sisters both released their latest albums last week and Eliminator follow suit in January.
All three bands have been champing at the bit to let rip and bring fans bang up to speed with some banging new blasts of molten metal.
And Rutter added: “It’s been such a long time since we’ve been able to do anything like this so to be out there playing live feels incredibly special.
“It’s a good laugh being on the road with your mates and we’ve been good friends with Seven Sisters for a while now.
“Fans are hungry to get out there and bands are hungry to play. It should make for some high energy shows.
“Our new album Heading For The Fire has already bagged a few positive reviews so that’s a good sign.
“We’ve been sitting on that record since March 2020 and it’s been frustrating waiting all this time to play the songs live.
“On the other hand, we were very lucky that we had all of the material done and dusted before lockdown.”
Heading For The Fire features eight brand new tunes perfectly capturing Toledo Steel’s fusion of old school metal with a 21st century twist.
Set closer Last Rites — best enjoyed as a conceptual package with penultimate track Rituals By The Firelight — is a prime example of the band’s bold ambition.
“A few people have picked up on Last Rites and it’s always good to finish an album on a high,” added Rutter.
“It ties in with Rituals… and it’s the second part of a fictional story that I’d been working on for a while.
“When we started writing Rituals… we didn’t realise it would become a two-parter but it became clear there were parts of the story left untold.
“That’s how Last Rites came about and all of us thought it was a cool idea.
“I didn’t want to do a full concept album but those last two songs seems to strike the right balance.
“Fitting them into the live show is another matter.
“I don’t think we’ll manage it this time but it’s definitely something for the future.”
Toledo Steel are on tour across the UK this week with label mates Seven Sisters and Eliminator.
New album Heading For The Fire is out now via Dissonance Productions.