24 July 2014

Toehider - What Kind Of Creature Am I?



This album has been a long time coming as far as I’m concerned. Ever since I reviewed their last album, To Hide Her, a couple of years ago, I’ve been listening to them fairly constantly., whether To Hide Her, their 12 in 12 collection of EP’s or Children Of The Sun (A covers album of retro kids TV themes). They all have moments of brilliance on them and are probably one of my favourite current bands, along with Eureka Machines, at the moment 
My main gripe with To Hide Her was that they tried to cram in all aspects of their musical variance, from Drone, to Folk to Prog Metal and Pop Rock. The end result was a bit of a Mish Mash that detracted from the great songs. The fan-funded What Kind Of Creature Am I? dispenses with the multi-genres and sticks to energetic, catchy and irreverent Progressive Metal. It’s all the better for it.
A brief burst of discordant noise heralds the arrival of the first track, You and I Both Lose (But 5 Wins). It’s an upbeat song with a stop start riff and memorable chorus. Many songwriters like to tell stories through their lyrics but none really do so in the peculiar style that vocalist/band leader Mike Mills does. His habit of using conversational quotes through it can be hard to follow unless you actually read the lyrics along. This song is one of those songs. It tells the story of a man who once met a mysterious woman who taught him an unusual game of cards. It might have hidden meaning or it might just be weird. Either way it’s an interesting way to open the album.
Whatever Makes You Feel Superior is gloriously catchy Pop Metal complete with parping keyboards and some big, Queen-esque harmonies in the chorus. Halfway through it all goes off kilter with some heavy guitar noodlery that fades into a quiet little orchestral bit. it all comes together at the end and then finishes abruptly.
The Thing With Me carries on both the pace and the Queen influence. There’s a touch of Devin Townsend about the guitars too. It’s a fun and ridiculous song that doesn’t really have any chorus to speak of but doesn’t particularly suffer for it either. There’s a great little polka section, what sounds like a balalaika and a Wurlitzer that fades into some heavy guitar chugging. It’s a remarkable song and one of the best the band has done so far. 
The title track comes next and begins with some all epic and dramatic build up before kicking off into a surreal rambling story about a thing that hatches from an egg. It’s an enjoyable song but confusingly surreal. The humour is very much along the lines of Dr. Seuss.

There’s no sign of the pace letting up any as Smash It Out! kicks off with a frenetic burst of urgency. Two breath taking minutes later it’s gone. It its place is some well-earned reprieve in the form of Spoilt For Choice. A slow Pop Rock song all about being old and wishing you did more with your life. It’s a touching song that fits perfectly after so many fast paced songs.
(L-R Amy Campbell, Mike Mills, Ricky Evensand, Lachlan Barclay)

Next is the succinctly named Whoa. It starts off slowly with some jingly jangly verse before the chorus erupts with a cacophony of, yes, whoas. It’s annoyingly catchy and, after a couple of listens, you’ll find yourself bellowing it to whoever is in earshot.
Under The Future, We Bury The Past is the first real Prog length song at just over seven minutes. It begins modestly with some lone hammond organ and muttered vocals. it gradually builds and fades, often back to minimalist strokes of the organ (snirk). Eventually the guitars chime in and it heads off into power balladry territory with Mike making full use of the high end of range with some impressive wailing. It’s better than it sounds.
Meet The Sloth is a behemoth of a song. Its twelve and a half minutes of unabashed proggery. It’s an account of the adventures of a young boy, let’s just call him Syd (Is that a Pink Floyd reference?). It begins with some mandolin and is peppered with acoustic guitars and time shifts. Despite its length it never gets dull and seems shorter than it is.
The final song is Geese Lycan (I assume that’s a bastardization of Grease Lightning) and is probably the heaviest song of their career.  There’s full on death grunts and blast beats aplenty towards the end. It’s likely to be the only songs you’ll get to hear about someone who’s part-goose, part-wolf, all man any time soon.
What Kind Of Creature Am I? is a brilliant album and showcases perfectly how Progressive Metal doesn’t have to be pompous, serious and dull. Toehider show that it’s possible to be technical and experimental without losing sight of what makes a song great in the first place. Mike is a great guitarist and an impressive singer but it's his unique take on song writing that make Toehider special.
My one complaint is the fact that three of the songs (Whatever Makes You Feel Superior, Smash It Out and Whoa) have all been previously released, albeit not on any album. I’d have liked to have seen one or two of them left off in favour of another new song. Still, all are excellent and deserve to be heard so maybe it’s for the best.
I can’t recommend this album (or band) highly enough to anyone who likes heaver stuff and is looking for something a little different. M
9 - Almost perfect....Almost
Best Track: The Thing With Me
You Can Buy and listen to it HERE
Visit their website HERE
You can read my old review of To Hide Her HERE

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