Melbourne based progressive rock band Toehider are about to release their third studio album, titled Good. I was fortunate enough to give the album a listen ahead of its October 19th release and was incredibly impressed by each and every track. Band mastermind Mike Mills demonstrates yet again that his songwriting ability transcends the norm, daring to be different in every conceivable way, from the trippy story-like lyrics all the way to the song structures which feel fresh and creative even to most experienced fan of progressive music. It’s important to note that except for the third track (This Conversation Is Over) The entire album is played entirely by Mike on all instruments. The aforementioned third track features the Toehider live band; Thom Mann on Drums and Nick Delaney on Bass.
The level of restraint on the album is extremely admirable, relying on the changing grooves messing with the listeners expectations to maintain its proggy sound rather than attempting to play a billion notes per second.
When Mike (and in case the band) does let loose the impact is therefore greater and the virtuosity really stands out and shines
The opening track Good sets the tone for the album instantly. Not musically but rather in regard to mood. Utilising whacky and wonderful panning effects to draw the listener in and demand attention. Essentially a short acoustic intro to the album which will establish and explain the meaning behind the album’s title.
The honesty in these lyrics is really something out of this world. Rarely are lyricists so downright truthful about the issues that Mike comments on here.
Next up we’re treated to metal influenced track titled [funnythings] which is where things really start to heat up. The pounding feel of this track is enough to get anybody’s pulse racing. The instrumental work by Mike is flawless and his world-renowned vocals radiate above, making it clear why he is so highly in demand. From soaring highs to layered harmonies, this track makes it clear that all the stops have been pulled out for this latest offering.
The lead single This Conversation Is Over is up next, delving into some more ambient sounds than we’ve heard from the band. Thom Mann and Nick Delaney lock in seamlessly with each other on drums and bass respectively, proving immediately on their studio debut why they’re the best possible fit for Toehider, a rhythm section worthy of many applauses. A blazing solo from Mike brings the track to its eventual crescendo and climax, leaving the listener wanting more.
Millions Of Musketeers is arguably the catchiest song on the entire album, and whilst telling a crazy story about essentially being woken and supposedly being chased down by musketeers, it creates and sonic atmosphere that you want to be a part of and sing along to at the top of your lungs. Not to mention it’s blisteringly fast bridge which for all musicians will be seen as a challenge to attempt and play it no doubt.
The crowning jewel of this album comes in the form of the 8-minute long epic How Do Ghosts Work?
This dark and moody track is so perfectly executed that after just one(!) listen it climbed the ranks to being one of the best songs of recent memory. The lyrics balance on a razor’s edge between dark supernatural fantasy and honesty about the very real mysteries of the world we live in. Mike delivers the performance of his life on vocals. Every single phrase ringing with an emotional intensity and power that enraptures the listener, culminating in a crescendo vocal section which sees him hitting the highest notes available to him, and that’s saying something considering how renowned he is for being able to reach nearly inhumanly high notes.
Dan VS Egg takes things back down briefly and exhibits a more classical sounding compositional style with an acoustic guitar part that sounds like it was played on a lute in medieval times. Providing a nice reprieve from the pleasantly oppressive atmosphere of the previous track, this song provides breathing room to listen to the incredible clarity in Mike’s guitar work and vocal tone. Not to mention more liquid-like layered harmonies.
The penultimate song I’ve Been So Happy Living Down Here In The Water begins to build the dynamic again and seems to be a natural progression of the track that came before by combining more modern instrumentation and composed parts with a still medieval melodic vibe in the choruses. The groove catapults the album towards its conclusion and providing lighthearted enjoyment along the way.
It’s So Fikkis brings us to the end of the album and provides with the most whacky experience yet, where Mike decides to invent a word and explains it’s meaning. (Time to add ‘Fikkis’ to the dictionary Oxford.) Musically the tune sounds like a fusion of 70s and 80s disco and pop with modern progressive and symphonic metal. Amazingly enough the combination works and is the perfect closer for an album as per the Toehider style.
My only reservation with this album is that it ends far too soon, when it’s 38-minute runtime is over you’re guaranteed to be left wanting much, much more.
Overall, it’s an album bound to please anyone who has a penchant for incredibly well composed songs with individual and unique twists that break the norm and stand out from the crowd.