3 July 2014

What Kind of Creature Am I? (Album Review)

It's not very often these days that I encounter a new band or artist that I get really excited about. But Australian prog band Toehider is proving to be one of those.

I first heard of the band when frontman Michael Mills was featured on Ayreon's latest album, The Theory of Everything. I didn't look into it too deeply then, but sometime later the man behind Ayreon, Arjen Lucassen, posted a link to a crowdfunding campaign for the new Toehider album, What Kind of Creature Am I? I thought it looked interesting, and the cost for the CD wasn't too high, so I decided to take a chance, even though I wasn't at all familiar with their music.

The album isn't officially slated for release until next week, I believe, but backers got a link to download the album last week, and today I discovered the CD in my postbox. I have listened to the album several times now, and... yes, I'm quite enjoying it.

I often talk about how much I appreciate albums as physical, aesthetic objects, and this one is no exception. The artwork by Andrew Saltmarsh is delightful. The liner notes are quite hilarious (another thing that adds value to owning the physical version). My one complaint is that the font in the booklet is quite small and hard to read. (Alas, this is a far too common problem in CD booklets.)

While Toehider has additional members for live performance, almost everything on the album is done by the quite talented multi-instrumentalist Michael Mills (which makes the music all the more impressive). Best I can describe Toehider's music is as prog rock. The songs display a wide range of styles and influences, with intricate, skilful arrangements, often complex (as prog tends to be), but still frequently quite catchy as well...

There are obvious Queen influences in several songs. There are heavier guitar parts, at times venturing close to metal (though much of the music is fairly cheery), as well as softer, more folky sequences (parts of the epic 12 minute track 'Meet the Sloth', for instance, remind me greatly of Jethro Tull).

Mills is a quite competent singer, as well, with a remarkable vocal range. The lyrics are frequently surreal, fantastic, even whimsical, though occasionally veering into darker, more personal territory.

I will probably have to try to get my hands on Toehider's earlier works eventually, although that may take a while. Meanwhile, I'll just go on listening to What Kind of Creature Am I?