Ten years into a career that now sees them releasing a second-full length album, English South Coast metallers Toledo Steel continue to move from strength to strength on Heading For The Fire.

Wisely holding back from tweaking their straight-up metal formula here, the band opt rather to simply offer more of it, done immeasurably better. Every possible ante is upped on HFTF, with songs like Wicked Woman and Rituals By The Firelight standing proud as evidence of this band’s continued solid progress.

Vocalist Rich Rutter gives an assured performance throughout; occasionally sounding like fellow Brit throatsmith, Monument’s Peter Ellis, he proves his versatility by handling the more visceral Smoke and Mirrors just as much as more epic material such as closer Last Rites. In short, he doesn’t make a misstep anywhere on the album.

Sharing the limelight is guitarist Tom Potter; Rather unusually for a traditional heavy metal band these days, Toledo Steel operate with only Potter on the six strings; he’s an old school guitar hero, however, and I can’t honestly say there’s ever a point when you think what you’re hearing might be enhanced by the presence of a second player. His work on the frantic No Time To Lose is particularly exciting, and whenever he takes an extended solo, as he does on Smoke and Mirrors, any gaps in the sound are nicely plugged by bassist Felix Dock stepping into the breech.

The dramatic Wicked Woman features some nice drumming from Matt Dobson and is a little reminiscent of Primitai‘s classic Holy Defender in construction, but for the great part of Heading… Toledo Steel very much retain their own identity and sound.

Last Rites is a cracking way to finish, being nine minutes of classic British metal styling; Overall this is an album that really concentrates on quality, with every song clearly benefiting from the band’s superior compositional and arrangement skills. I can’t really target any weak points, and if trad metal is your thing then this is another worthy addition to your collection in a year that has seen a lot of high quality British metal emerge. Brilliant stuff!

Heading For The Fire releases on October 22nd.