Toadstool - Self-Titled EP (2010)
Self-Released -- Running Time 20:11
Gloucestershire, UK based Toadstool are another of the bands that I was introduced to for the first time on my recent festival trip for Brutiful and they very kindly gave me both of their EP's to listen to. First up is their debut from 2010 and if you like a good dose of very early Rush mixed with a smattering of Led Zep all played with huge amounts of energy and enthusiasm then Toadstool will be for you!
The EP opens with the fantastic 'Pigzilla' and such is its immediate catchiness and charm, it is safe to suggest it has already become a live favourite and anthem for Toadstool. It has an incredibly simple but hugely enjoyable riff and tempo which gets your foot tapping immediately. With such a great opener you might be concerned that they cannot continue with the quality, but you would be incorrect. Next track 'Hands Of Time' is where the early Rush influences really kick in. Vocalist/bassist Alex Macaskill sounds very much like a mix of Geddy Lee and Marc Bolan. I think I can say that any of the five tracks here would sit fairly comfortably next to material from the first Rush album, indeed the intro to final track 'The Water Witch' can be placed exactly over the intro of Rush's 'Finding My Way' from that very album without it being a copy!
Joining Macaskill on this EP are Nick Ingram (lead), Jack Porteous (rhythm) and Dave Meadows (drums) and they all put in very good and solid performances. They play with a freedom, groove and live feel missing from many younger bands who often rely too much on triggers and corrective software in the studio. It's nice to hear that and even though Toadstool do add their own musical flavour to proceedings and this is a well produced CD (courtesy of Chris Maguire at Screamadelica Studios In Cardiff) it still takes me back to my younger years when things weren't perhaps quite so polished as they are nowadays.
Since both of their EP's were released Toadstool have trimmed down to a three piece and have a newly recruited drummer and that is the lineup I saw gig recently. I'm pleased to say, when comparing that performance to this CD, there is very little, if any, difference in the quality of their sound. Of course we are three years on from this EP and the constant gigging has obviously helped in that respect. Toadstool are a young and gifted band. This was a very assured debut, well beyond their years. I'll be reviewing their second EP 'The Visitors' next and I very much look forward to the debut album which will hopefully see the light of day in 2014!
Toadstool - The Visitors EP (2012)
Self-Released -- Running Time 15:30
Here we have the second Toadstool EP 'The Visitors', which was released at the tail end of 2012. It features the same four piece lineup as on the debut Alex Macaskill (vocals and bass), Jack Porteous (rhythm guitar), Nick Ingram (lead guitar) and Dave Meadows (drums) and even though there are a few small changes musically it essentially carries on from where the first EP left off.
All of those great Rush, T-Rex and Led Zep influences that were present are still there, thanks mainly to an excellent vocal performance from Macaskill, but this time there are some slightly more modern influences seeping through into the songwriting and the songs themselves are not quite as immediate, taking a few more spins to appreciate fully. That doesn't mean they are worse though, just that the melodies are a little more hidden and take time to emerge. I think there are two reasons for this, Firstly, even though all four songs are catchy, there is some further experimentation within the arrangements and I would expect that two years on from the debut. Secondly, and I hope I don't upset the guys by saying this, but I'm not sure the production is as good this time around. It's a little more 'muddy' and the drums seem somewhat lost in a couple of the tracks. I thought it was just me at first but when I went back and played the first CD to check it was definitely clearer and more defined!
Regardless of that fact Toadstool have released an excellent follow up and the energy and ambition is still there in spades. Once the melodies and arrangements kicked in, especially on the aptly titled 'Something To Prove' and 'Last Night On Earth', I was tapping away on my desk with a big smile on my face. They are a classic rock band, but not in the same way as many of the revival classic rock acts around at the moment. It's difficult to put my finger on it. Perhaps it's the uniqueness of the vocals, there just seems to be that little something extra that separates them from the majority and that can only be a good thing as far as I'm concerned! I also want to say that I really like the cover art which reminds a little of the final scene in Lars von Trier's 'Antichrist' or UK ghost series 'The Fades'. That's my love of horror creeping into a review yet again!
As I stated in my other review Toadstool are now a three piece with Alex and Nick joined by new drummer Scott McParland and they played an extremely good set at the recent Rock & Metal Circus Festival. With more live dates just announced I'm aiming to catch them again before the end of the year and they absolutely deserve to be signed by a good independent label to give their debut album a decent push when it is released!
Toadstool - The Lady Electric (2015)
Self-Released -- Running Time 37:00
The Lady Electric - As soon as this track begins, your instantly thrown back in time to the psychedelic rock tones of Hendrix, T-Rex and Led Zeppelin as this glorious little number swings around your ears with its enticement and swagger. Although this has a retro feel, it's upbeat tempo and feel good stomp around will have everyone throwing themselves around the pit and having a good time. The guitar solo at the bridge will get everyone raising their pints in appreciation as it stamps its authority alongside the wicked bass groove and tom tom beats that fuse this track into one hell of an enjoyable session.
Last Minute Man - An instantly addictive guitar hook, drum fill and a rallying chant in the vocals, entices you in before this track settles into a melodic stomp around. With its compelling bounce in the tempo, this really rolls along like a glorious drive down the highway as its addictive wheel tapping qualities grab your senses. The guitar hook and rolls around the tom toms will seriously get you grooving and cranking the volume up on this one.
Sector 42 - With a slide down the fretboard, the galloping drums fire up to bring another fantastic stomp around track that really grinds with its bass bounce and heavy rhythmic guitar tones. This is a heavier track that really hits home and will fire up any rocker to get their mosh on and tear up that pit as its runaway freight train momentum sucks you in for one hell of a glorious ride.
Something To Prove - With its cheeky enticement, a bit like Hendrix's, Foxy Lady, this one swaggers and grinds provocatively into your consciousness. This has some mighty guitar hooks and medleys running through it with an intense bass groove that really adds authority to the rhythm section. This is impacted at the bridge where your whisked away before a tempo change goes up a gear to really light the touch paper on this bad boy.
Meet Me In The Woods - Opening with a rhythmic guitar hook, we're brought into an illustrious swing beat as this track emerges with a dark menace and a prog rock vibe to its tone. This really is atmospheric as if you've stumbled into some dark woods and are being stalked by something. You'll definitely want to stomp around and throw some shapes to this one as its addictive air of mystery, atmospheric harmonica and bouncy tempo feed your inner rocker.
Dive Dive Dive - As this one takes off, you feel like your heading down the runway at break neck speed on a mission to take out the enemy. This one is more metal with its Iron Maiden, Black Sabbath, Airbourne feel, and really hits the spot with its epic tones and rallying chorus that'll get everyone joining in. This seriously rocks and the guitar solo at the bridge is sublime with its heavy wah and wails to bring this thunderous track kicking and screaming into your ears. I need this loud! Hell yeah!!.
Demon Tree - A prog rock track that calmly carries you away with its reflective, narrative vocals, sweet guitar chords and cymbal rhythm before an increase in intensity emerges at the choral breaks. This track waxes and wanes, rising to a crescendo at the bridge with some awesome guitaring that really captivates. One of those tracks where you can just close your eyes and get lost in its rhythm before unleashing holy hell in the pit.
Pigzilla - This is a fantastic melodic track with a heavy rock-blues edge that'll really fire up any pit and get the party rocking. I can see why this a live favourite with the fans as its wicked melody and heavy grind struts around your senses. This one really is fired up and taking you for one hell of a ride!. The bass lead at the bridge into the guitar solo seriously rings home some clout with its distorted fuzz, igniting the guitar into a sublime solo. A track guaranteed to get everyone up and enjoying themselves!.
(Old) Before My Time - An acoustic blues number that's upbeat and fun with some retro organ. This will have the pit clapping along and foot tapping no problem and reminded me of Wasp's DB Blues in tone. One to kick back with and roll along to as its fun melody puts a smile on your face.
Don't Let Me Down - A fabulous track with a heavier grind that brings a defiant stomp around attitude to the senses. This is fired up and going out kicking and screaming as it closes this fantastic album. The heavy grind on the guitar and thunderous drums really inject the energy while the anthemic chant in the chorus will get everyone joining in.
Toadstool have a serious winner here with their retro tones shining through into a modern day behemoth of rock that will please young and old alike. This is seriously addictive rock with a fun, upbeat party atmosphere that'll ignite anyone into a feel good frenzy. The recording quality is outstanding with its crisp clarity and everything balanced beautifully. Considering Toadstool are only a 3 piece band, they really do bring some fire and attitude to the masses. This is one hell of an album that will take pride in my collection and I urge you to check these guys out and show them some love. Outstanding!!.
Lady Electric Album Review
Toadstool and their 'The Lady Electric' debut could be huge.
Royal Blood, Kings Of Leon, The White Stripes... A circle I often struggle to square is why certain bands are able to visit an oft plundered well and draw out something which makes the mainstream "aficionados" froth about innovation and new boundaries. To be fair, all three of those named can point to a song apiece and proclaim "there's a riff" and we have to nod and agree.
In terms of sound, Toadstool have much in common with that trio of breakthrough bands (not so much KoL); a vintage buzz and hum hammered out with a certain modernism that shouts "retro", but not homage. Led Zeppelin are a main pulling point, Black Sabbath a mere suggestion as a few of the tracks impertinently bustle into your day. What wasn't expected is the jeepstering gong banging of T-Rex and the cleaner sounds that reel Toadstool away from simple dirty rifferola and suggest that with time this Forest Of Dean trio may well have something genuinely different (if familiar) to brag about.
As it is, there's promise by the recycled bag full, the 1970s entertained in a reverential manner but not to the extent that Toadstool aren't willing to at least flit with the idea of marking their territory with a more idiosyncratic scent. Bassist Alex Macaskill also handles the microphone and if there's one possible block on which to stumble, then it may well be his scattergun sneer that sits somewhere between Marc Bolan, Geddy Lee and something more Sunset Strip. However his four-string thrum blends perfectly with drummer Scott McParland's clatter and batter, giving 'Dive Dive Dive' and 'Something To Prove' the forceful judder required to knock your attention into gear. While guitarist Nick Ingram sets the mud flying in 'Pigzilla' and alarm bells ringing in 'Sector 42'; the latter a genuine RB-like potential man in the street botherer.
Toadstool and their 'The Lady Electric' debut could be huge but I'd suggest the acclaim is as likely to arrive from those who hang on the every word of the Jo Whileys and Jools Hollands of this world than the out and out Rock brigade. On that, only time will tell.