Toehider -
What Kind Of Creature Am I?

(CD 2014, 51:54, Bird's Robe Records BRR041)

The tracks:
  1- You And I Both Lose (But 5 Wins)
  2- What Ever Makes You Feel Superior
  3- The Thing With Me
  4- What Kind Of Creature Am I?
  5- Smash It Out
  6- Spoilt For Choice
  7- Whoa!
  8- Under The Future, We Bury The Past
  9- Meet The Sloth
10- Geese Lycan

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Toehider are an Australian progressive rock band, that is to say, when they play live on stage; in the studio Toehider consist only of Mike Mills, who's responsible for about everything you hear. Does the name Mike Mills ring a bell? It should, because Arjen Lucassen asked this talented musician to contribute as a vocalist to the Ayreon album The Theory Of Everything (2013, see review). I have to agree that Lucassen has a good nose for recruiting the right talents for his albums and indeed, Mike Mill's voice is something special. Actually not only his voice, but Toehider as a whole is special. To file Mill's music under progressive rock wouldn't do justice to this musician from'down under'. His music got so many other influences than just prog rock.

So far Toehider recorded three albums: To Hide Her (2008), The First Six and The Last Six (both 2011, see review). The latter two basically consisted of twelve EPs that were recorded monthly and packed together on two double disc sets. Recently a 'real' second album was released introspectively called What Kind Of Creature Am I? After a few spins some aspects became perfectly clear to me. First of all: Mike Mills is absolutely nuts as far as music is concerned. His creativity seems to be boundless; he uses everything that suits an interesting composition. Secondly: Mills must be a real Queen fan since all compositions contain influences of this band. Thirdly: Mills writes more lyrics than one can express in half a minute! It sounds as if he has ADHD, and I mean that in a positive sense!

While listening to the album's opening piece You And I Both Lose (But 5 Wins), you'll hear an example of his rapid expression of many words. However, the strong sounding and inventive guitar parts in the vein of alternative rock are outstanding as well. The next piece What Ever Makes You Feel Superior is a more direct song with a touch of classic rock and vocals having fewer lyrics. Sometimes it seems like Toto and Queen are playing together with a heavy metal guitarist playing in the vein of Steve Vai! The Thing With Me sounds punk-like with an alternative rock edge on top and vocals in vaudeville style. The title track starts bombastic followed by fast singing in the vein of Frank Zappa. Not only the vocals, but also the music sounds like structured chaos. During Smash It Out I get the same feeling: Zappa creating hyper rock; great but also exhausting...

Luckily there's some time to relax with Spoilt For Choice, which basically consists of one clear guitar combined with Mill's voice accompanied by soft drums and bass. Whoa! reminds me of rock from the sixties or seventies: a catchy tune which has something in common with The Who. That clearly makes this composition radio-friendly. A smooth jazzy sounding electric piano introduces Under The Future, We Bury The Past. The dark and low scraping vocals, referring to Tom Waits, lead to the easier parts of this, again, fairly radio-friendly composition. The way the electric piano alternates the guitar is a nice feature. Meet The Sloth, the album's longest composition, contains again influences of Queen, but the nearly acoustic sound drifts slightly away from Mercury's band. In a way this piece sounds as an improved version of an acoustic Queen song. When the final composition starts you can't do anything but laugh because Geese Lycan contains parts of Grease transformed into death metal with a humorous flavour. What a nice way to end an album!

Toehider don't sound like a regular progressive rock band and I'm aware of the fact that it may take a few spins to grab the whole picture, but Mike Mills' music is rather innovative. He throws all musical styles into a big blender that provides you for the perfect musical juice of Toehider. I think I'm getting thirsty for more.

****+ Pedro Bekkers (edited by Peter Willemsen)

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