Two years after their release of ‘7’ back in 2013, Toxic Smile are back with new album ‘Farewell,’ which has a total of one track, yes you read it right, one track.
From your first glance of the album art, you are drawn in by the expressive and abstract style of brush strokes that give it a very emotive cover. However, to see that there is only one track, surely it must just be an EP? Then there’s how long the track lasts for… an epic 42 minutes. Toxic Smile took on a big task on writing an epic progressive track lasting for 42 minutes, it takes a lot of ingenuity, musicianship and a special amount of madness; they have combined all those traits, especially fantastic musicianship, to produce an epic journey melding styles and themes together.
Back in 2004 the band set to work on the classical project, which they then released in 2006, ‘……. in classic extension’. The opening of ‘Farewell’ straight away dictates the classical experience the band have had as the elegant sound of strings bows in to paint a tranquil scene before electric instruments are brought in and your sense of rhythm unravels.
A sense of pulse is a primary foundation for any piece of music because it provides drive and something you can tap your foot along to. Toxic Smile have realised this but chosen to ignore it at different moments during the progressive song. It’s almost as if there are 3 different time scales occurring as they all fall on different beats to each other, the drums have one beat and the synth sounds and bass guitar have different accented rhythms, it leaves you with an uncertain sense of what beat goes where. Although the sense of a strong rhythm from the audiences point of view is lost, it emphasises the skill the band have, to be able to keep different rhythmic lines occurring at the same time – fundamentally speaking – and then come to a regular rhythm where your foot can become mobile again.
Vocalist Larry B is not constantly relied upon to sing an extremely repetitive and superficial melodic line, which is very refreshing to hear – or not hear as the case may be. Vocal lines enter in stages and you can feel a shift in where the music is leading too. This, therefore, provides the emotive expression, in word form, of what they are trying to convey in the song.
Being such a long track, it would be expected, or at least hoped for, that the melodic material develops and changes, even remotely, in style; this is most definitely the case. Some style choices are surprising and, if written down on paper, could be shot down in flames. For instance, the combination of reggae and heavy rock seems an unlikely choice but Toxic Smile have made this odd idea work well.
The juxtaposition of distorted guitars and heavily pounding drums contrasts greatly with the chill of simple rhythms and melodies, with an off-beat accent for the reggae flavour. Nearer the end of the track the style heads in a completely unexpected direction into Funk town. The bass becomes more alive with energetic riffs and the guitar has distinct swirling sounds as the drums change rhythms, the styles couldn’t slide more seamlessly into each other, despite the initial unlikeliness of melding them.
Overall, this is a great album transporting you seamlessly to different emotions from the variation they have in their one epic track.
Happy New Year my friends, after the bumper musical cornucopia of 2015, it is quite difficult to see how 2016 could top it but, you never know!
To get this year started with a bang, here’s a super-duper edition of Wallet Emptier featuring some great albums from last year that didn’t get to feature due to being released at the end of the year and some belters that are kicking off 2016 in fine fashion. Buckle up, it’s going to be an exciting ride…….
M!NDGAMES – Paradox of Choice
Belgian proggers M!NDGAMES returned in 2015 with this new release, which was my first exposure to their classy brand of Neo-Prog. Bombastic bursts of symphonic tinged rock combine with delicate moments of reflection and sadness to give a feel of early Marillion, all underscored by swooping keyboards. An album that definitely gets better as it it progresses and one that is worthy of your attention.
With ‘Treasure House’, Jack draws from a deep well of poignant and reflective experiences to deliver a delightful collection of acoustic tracks that come straight from his heart and are like a breath of fresh air. He is tremendously excited to bring these stripped back, uplifting songs to life. Just one man and his guitar, Jack has written ten insightful and moving tracks that, together with his haunting vocals, lead you on a captivating musical journey into the depths of his soul.
Released 5th February 2016 through Bad Elephant Music
I opened my email inbox this morning to find two new promotional releases, the first was for Profuna Ocean, a Dutch band I profess to having passed under my radar. Always open to new experiences I launched into ‘In Vacuum’ to be utterly stunned by what I was hearing. A more hard-edged, aggressive prog with intelligent lyrics, excellent vocals and excellent production. At 62 minutes long it never outstays its welcome and I found myself immediately pressing repeat play to be absorbed in its stylish aura once again, just WOW!
From the first note it was apparent that there is nothing quite like the highly original sound of N.y.X.They are at the forefront of avant-garde, experimental progressive rock, a real musical breath of fresh air. The multi-instrumental trio is joined by a number of impressive guest artists to build on the signature sound of a power trio enhanced by electronic percussions, synthesizers and effects.
Berlin based Osta Love are one of the bands to watch for 2015 and their follow up the dark concepts of ‘Good Morning Dystopia’ is a complete breath of fresh air. ‘Isle of Dogs’ is full of their signature sound that unites Rock with Jazz, Pop with Baroque and adds a dose of melancholic dreamscape to form a unique sound that touches hearts and heads. Even though it was released at the end of 2015, I have only just heard this jewel and it is rapidly becoming a highlight for me.
Another German band, this time hailing from Dresden, Toxic Smile have thrown out the rule book and produced an album that consists of just one 42 minute track and, guess what, it works! A soaring progressive rock and metal epic that takes you through a multitude of emotions in its relatively short running time. The distinctive vocals and superb musicianship are key elements to its instant attraction, a record that will surprise and delight on many levels. Another great release from Progressive Promotion Records.
Released 6th December 2015
Stand out track – well there’s only the one anyway…..
I had already decided to include this release before news of David Bowie’s death started to cross the web, while I have never been as big a fan as many, I have always recognised him as a great musical innovator and a true legend. ‘Blackstar’ was his 27th album and one of his recent best. Exploring new avenues using a jazz band he has produced a deep and sometimes dark release that, obviously, touched on his own mortality as he came to the end of his life. It now seems a brilliant, if poignant, testimony to his musical legacy.
Another ‘Prog Supergroup’, this time featuring Nick Beggs, Roger King and MarcoMinnemann, rears its head to deliver engaging, expansive rock for the thinking person, apparently. While not perhaps living up to those lofty expectations entirely, it is an enjoyable listen and, when not sounding generically like a lot of the so called supergroups, has a real depth and intelligence all of its own. Don’t take it on face value and give it more than one coat of listening to and you will find an album that is worthy of your collection, just not quite a contender for album of the year yet.
Originally released in 2014, this year sees the re-release of Devin Townsend’s rootsy country and North American folk music project as a 2CD and 1DVD package. Featuring the delightful vocals of Ché Aimee Dorval it is winsome and wistful in equal measure, evocative memories are brought to life on a battered old telecaster and fender amp in what is a complete change from the Canadian artist’s metal roots. Lay back on your lounger on the porch, sipping iced lemon tea in the sun, life’s easy really. Worth it for the 8 minute brilliance of ‘The Bridge’ alone….
Italian progressive rock that is incredibly intricate and engrossing. Lock yourself in a darkened room and let the endless combination of notes and distant rhythms create an amazing union of classical and rock music. A record where the language doesn’t matter, it is the intent of the words that is obvious and draws you deep into this incredible album.
Hats Off Gentlemen It’s Adequate – When The Kill Code Fails
The second promotional release that I found in my email inbox, ‘When The Kill Code Fails’ sounded very intriguing. A science fiction/artificial intelligence themed concept album, it is the second release from the London based rock band with a great name Hats Off Gentlemen It’s Adequate and is described as proggy, funky and sometimes poignant. Expressive vocals and a pared back sound give it a real intensive feeling that immediately draws you in. Electronica, prog, bluesy rock and metal all get a look in during its very enjoyable and inventive 56 minute running time.
German band Martigan were formed in 1994 and deliver an almost pastoral brand of progressive rock with lilting vocals and a sunny aspect, think Lifesigns meets United Progressive Fraternity and you won’t be far wrong. An engrossing 75 minutes of easy listening progressive rock that just flies past leaving you in quite a relaxed state of mind.