Friday Full-Length: Toad, Toad

Posted in Bootleg Theater on December 4th, 2015 by JJ Koczan

Toad, Toad (1971)

The discography of founding Toad guitarist Vic Vergeat is kind of all over the place. Up to two live albums in 2013, he was still making music, and over the years before and since Toad‘s self-titled 1971 debut, he’s collaborated with a variety of players, from Ratt‘s Tom Croucier, Jr. and Frankie Banali in 1982 to David Hasselhoff 11 years later. Toad, as a unit, have been an intermittent part of that process, but a justifiable focal point all the same. The band formed in 1970 with Vergeat on guitar, Benjamin Jaeger on vocals, and the rhythm section of bassist Werner Frolich and drummer Cosimo Lampis, both recently departed from krautrockers BrainticketToad ultimately wouldn’t have much in common with that group’s expanses, but while more aesthetically stripped down to a heavy rocking, bluesy core, there’s still something exploratory about Toad‘s Toad, longer cuts like “They Say I’m Mad,” “Life Goes On” and “Pig’s Walk” in the album’s midsection finding a way to build on the crunching riff of opener “Cottonwood Hill” without going so far as to be out of place.

If you haven’t heard it before, it’ll be familiar territory for listeners experienced in the ways of the heavy ’70s, but the noteworthy production of Martin Birch (Black SabbathDeep Purple) brings the Swiss outfit’s impact to a fine point — or, in the case of the bassline underscoring the guitar solo in “Life Goes On,” a blunt point. Birch would also helm Toad‘s second outing, Tomorrow’s Blue, in 1972, but by then Jaeger was out of the band. Bluesy frontmen were a dime a dozen, I guess, but from the side B opener calling back to “Cottonwood Hill,” to the wah-soaked Hendrixian freakout of “Pig’s Walk,” to the subtle progressivism of “The One I Mean” closing out, Jaeger is a crucial part of Toad making the impression it does, which even in a well-dredged sea of private-press reissues and heavy rock revivalism, manages to stand out for the quality of its performance and overarching vibe.

Several reissues have popped up over the years. I think the most recent of them was Akarma‘s, which you can still find around on CD via the interwebs. Toad‘s last official studio album was 1995’s Hate to Hate, which was a revamped version of Stop this Crime, released two years earlier, but if you’re beginning an investigation, it’s the first three records from their original run — ToadTomorrow’s Blue and 1974’s Dreams — that you’re going to want to start with. Either way, I hope you enjoy.

It has taken me like half the friggin’ day just to write this post. I’ve had a half-cold all week that sometime overnight last night decided to fully bloom. Couple that with lingering issues from a sprained ankle last week — sometimes I think, “I used to heal so quickly,” and then I remember I’m in my mid-30s and it’s only going to get worse from here — and I’m absolutely laid up. I managed to shower this morning — small favors — but couldn’t actually get myself out the door to go to work. I genuinely tried. It just wasn’t happening.

Given that, I’m hoping that by staying as absolutely still as possible today, tonight and the better part of the day tomorrow, I’ll be better able to get my ass up and go see Corrosion of ConformityMothershipBrant Bjork and Saviours tomorrow night in Boston. They’re in NYC this evening, and were it not for the injury being to my right ankle (aka my driving ankle), I had considered making the trip south for the show — Gramercy Theater has a photo pit, Paradise Rock Club in Boston does not, to the best of my knowledge — but that went out the window. I don’t know that by tomorrow I’ll be in any shape to actually stand up front and take pictures, might just be a couple shots from the back this time around, but I’m going to try to get there early anyway and at least get the lay of the land.

Review of that on Monday, one way or another. Also a full-album stream from Isaak. Next week will have reviews of Uzala‘s Live at Roadburn, which will be a fucking pleasure to write about — I’m pretty much giving myself a treat by doing so — and the new Bevar Sea, which has been on the to-do list for far too long. Not sure of what sort yet, but I’ll have another year-end list up as well. Maybe best songs, maybe top 20 debuts. I’m not really sure yet. There’s a lot to cram in.

That said, a huge thanks to everyone who has submitted a list so far to the Top 20 of 2015 Readers Poll. As of right now, we’re over 110 contributors, and that is very much appreciated.

At some point too, I’ll put together a year-end podcast, as is sort of the tradition. Probably not next week, but the week after. Either way, keep an eye out.

And maybe this is just the cold medicine talking, but I feel like I haven’t said in a while how much your support means to me. If you’re reading this, thank you so fucking much, from the bottom of my weirdo misanthropic, all-kinds-of-wretched heart. I’ve having some tough times of late dealing with various personal/medical issues, and working on this site is a big part of what keeps me sane. So again, thank you.

Please have a great and safe weekend, and please check out the forum and the radio stream.

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TOAD Set to Tour US with Agrimonia

Posted in Whathaveyou on October 24th, 2013 by JJ Koczan

Yeah, I guess it’s cool that Arizona-based TOAD — an acronym for Take Over and Destroy — are sharing the stage tomorrow with Ghost as that band comes through on their latest tour, but the real news here is that the band (who I believe have a new bass player since the picture above was taken), are heading out on a full US tour with Agrimonia, playing in the West, in the East and in the Middle over the course of November into December in support of their Endless Night vinyl, which was released this summer. Pretty badass. Go get ’em, dudes.

The PR wire tells it like it is:

TOAD: Arizona Blackened Death Rock Ringleaders Announce Tour With Agrimonia; Band To Open For Ghost B.C. Tomorrow

Arizona blackened death rock ringleaders will join forces with post-crust horde Agrimonia next month for a US run of live assaults. Set to commence November 12th in Glendale, California, The Nights Of Rites Tour will trample its way clockwise through the entire country until their final riff crushes Phoenix, Arizona on December 4th. As precursor to the expedition, team TOAD will be opening for occult rockers, Ghost B.C. in Phoenix tomorrow. The performance marks the band’s first show with new bassist, Dylan Thomas.

Comments TOAD, “We’re stoked to be playing our first show with our good buddy Dylan on bass. We’re equally as excited that this is happening on the night we share the stage with Ghost B.C.! This is their first time playing Phoenix and we’re happy to be a part of it. As if that wasn’t enough, we’re thrilled to be touring with Agrimonia, at a point when our lineup is stronger and tighter than it’s ever been. We really dig their new record and can already tell we’re gonna have a blast together. This tour came together so naturally and we know it will be unforgettable. See all of you very soon…”

w/ Ghost B.C.:
10/25/2013 The Press Room – Phoenix, AZ
w/ Agrimonia:
11/12/2013 The Complex – Glendale, CA w/ Ancestors
11/13/2013 Oakland Metro – Oakland, CA w/ Embers, Femacoffin
11/14/2013 Alibi – Arcata, CA
11/15/2013 Branx – Portland, OR w/ Eight Bells
11/16/2013 Highline – Seattle, WA w/ Tragedy, Death Raid
11/17/2013 Shredder – Boise, ID w/ Exmortus, Hatchet
11/18/2013 Bar Deluxe – Salt Lake City, UT w/ SubRosa
11/19/2013 3 Kings – Denver, CO w/ Wayfarer, Weaponizer
11/20/2013 Duffy’s – Lincoln, NE
11/21/2013 Fubar – St. Louis, MO w/ Enabler
11/22/2013 Cobra Lounge – Chicago, IL w/ Enabler
11/23/2013 Now That’s Class – Cleveland, OH
11/24/2013 Howler’s – Pittsburgh, PA
11/25/2013 Saint Vitus Bar – Brooklyn, NY w/ Sannhet
11/26/2013 Black Cat – Washington DC
11/27/2013 Pinhook – Durham, NC
11/29/2013 Siberia – New Orleans, LA
11/30/2013 Mango’s – Houston, TX
12/01/2013 Red 7 – Austin, TX
12/03/2013 Launch Pad – Albuquerque, NM
12/04/2013 Rhythm Room – Phoenix, AZ w/ True Cross, Cave Dweller

Endless Night is available in 180 gram vinyl with a gatefold layout HERE.

Take Over and Destroy, Endless Night (2013)

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TOAD, Endless Night: Giving a Taste of the Grave

Posted in Reviews on January 31st, 2013 by JJ Koczan

As much as extreme rock has ever been a thing, Tempe, Arizona, six-piece TOAD would seem to be engaged in the practice of it. The double-guitar, organ, bass, drums and standalone vocal outfit made their first showing in 2010 as a split with Drone Throne, then on their own in 2011 with Rotten Tide (review here) and are set to return in 2013 with Endless Night – five tracks of blackened melodic death rock that attempt to draw a line between At the Gates and the riffier terrain of heavy rock. No easy task. The five tracks of the vinyl-ready 27-minute Endless Night cast off a lot of the melodeath cliché that came in the wake of America’s turn-of-the-century metal revival – i.e. they don’t rush through a verse so as to blindside you with an out-of-place breakdown most part – but there is an intensity to some of their parts that feels derived from modern hardcore, so that even the dueling guitars on the otherwise organ-driven closing title-track seem to be in specifically that kind of rush. The band – comprised of guitarists Nate and Alex, bassist Trey, vocalist Andy, drummer Jason and organist Pete – balances its approach well, so that they never appear to be in the same place twice while also creating a full-album flow over the course of a brief span. Endless Night preserves continuity though in the echoing screams of Andy (who seems to be going by Chthon these days, unless I’ve got the lineup info wrong), which are largely unipolar in their shouting approach, at times scathing, but presented well in the mix all the same. Together with Jason’s drums, they announce the rolling groove of opener “Taste of the Grave,” which is also the shortest track on Endless Night at just under four minutes, centered around a heavy rock riff that in another context might bounce where here it pummels. TOAD, whose name is an acronym for Take Over and Destroy, have several immediate factors working toward their favor, and a pervasive knack for structure is one of them. It’s easy to get lost in Endless Night and some might accuse their songs of being samey, but TOAD are able to accomplish changes between otherwise standard verses and choruses that even with considered listening are less predictable than one might think. The harder you hear Endless Night, the heavier it gets.

And repeat listens may pull back the curtain on a horror influence that shows through in Pete’s organ work on “Howling House” and elsewhere, but even so, TOAD don’t necessarily telegraph where they’re headed next, as Entombed-style guitars in the verse of “Taste of the Grave” give way to a nuanced bridge. In some ways, this sets the tone for the whole of the album, which is similarly minded in its bludgeoning, but there’s no chorus to speak of in “Taste of the Grave,” and gang vocals, layers of backing singing and lead guitar throw one off as much as they bring you along with them. That makes Endless Night an immediately fascinating listen, and there’s still a core element of songwriting that brings back the verse riff to end the track, giving way to the creepy guitar opening of the 6:26 “Cosmophobia,” the longest cut of the five but right in line with the closing duo “Boundaries of the Flesh” and “Endless Night.” The intro gradually builds as drums are added before taking off to a thickened stomp at 1:18 that sets up the jagged verse and the more obvious chorus. It’s still largely the guitars responsible for the hook, but the vocals do well in following where the music leads in terms of rhythm, and though stops before the three-minute mark are jarring until the organ begins to fill that space (I kept wondering if one of my channels had dropped out), TOAD once more show an ability to wander from and return to the core figure of the song, reigniting the interchange between the verse and chorus and then cycling through once again with more bombast as an outro, Jason’s blown out cymbals setting up the drum-led thud of the intro to “Howling House,” soon joined by the guitar and an opening “argh!” from Andy that’s straight out of black metal. The Sunlight Studios-esque crunch of “Taste of the Grave” returns on “Howling House” and proves adaptable to the tempo shift into the slower, more open, noisier second half of the track, which picks up following a dual solo into blastbeats and stops to round out once more with a last verse and cold end. If it’s a sample of a tape winding up or the actual tape onto which Endless Night was recorded, I don’t know (TOAD had made a point of analog recording for Rotten Tide), but “Boundaries of Flesh” launches soon after into a frill-less brutality that’s perhaps the most abrasive they’ve been yet.

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On the Radar: TOAD

Posted in On the Radar on January 24th, 2012 by JJ Koczan

Not to be confused with the Swiss heavy prog trio from the early ’70s, the Tempe, Arizona-based six-piece TOAD‘s moniker is meant as an acronym for Take Over and Destroy, and seems as well to be a statement of their methodology. Their debut EP, titled Rotten Tide, blends a variety of styles from bombastic hardcore metal to post-Mastodonic technicality, and — perhaps most curiously of all — a preference for analog recording that’s almost entirely absent from the larger scope of modern metal.

Rotten Tide sounds modern, and though parts of centerpiece “Embody the Ghost” speaks to some affection for retro doom in its horror spookiness, the song itself quickly moves away from that and TOAD are, on the whole, working within a different aesthetic. Vocals from Andy Leemont come in abrasive and layered shouts over the guitars of Nate Garrett (who seems to have replaced Dan Labarbiera) and Alex Bank Rollins, and are clearly metallic in their origin, and yet Pete Porter‘s mellotron seems to add a backwards-looking flair that’s not incongruous with what the band are doing only because they mix it so well into their own context.

And as for recording analog — aside from the snobby prestige of being able to say you did it, it doesn’t really do much for your sound if you’re making something as metal as Rotten Tide — but as it’s genuinely a more arduous process, it says something that TOAD did it anyway and, along with their use of “all vintage gear from the ’60s and ’70s,” it seems to speak to the same kind of genre-straying ideology that drives “Embody the Ghost.” They’re still very metal, and at times border on black ‘n’ roll, but the band — who are just starting out and whose lineup is rounded out by bassist Trey Edwin and drummer Shane Taylor — have potential to develop in any number of sonic directions.

If you’d like to find out for yourself, they’ve put all of Rotten Tide up for streaming on their Bandcamp page, and also have a split release available through Boue Records with Drone Throne, with whom they share Rollins and Leemont. They’re also on Thee Facebooks, if that’s your thing. Here’s the whole of Rotten Tide, courtesy of the former:

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Buried Treasure: Hurricane Irene and the Red Lion Haul

Posted in Buried Treasure on August 30th, 2011 by JJ Koczan

Every now and then, I do a Craigslist search for the word “stoner,” just to see what comes up. Early this past week was one such occasion, and what I found was a listing from a guy outside of York, Pennsylvania, who was selling off what he touted as a massive CD collection, with lots of varied kinds of metal, stoner/desert rock and ’70s heavy bands. Needless to say, my interest was piqued.

York is more than three hours from where I live in New Jersey, so going during the week was out because of work. And I wouldn’t want to go on Sunday, because six hours in a car is no way to lead into a Monday morning, so I called the guy and said I was interested in taking a look at what he had for sale and asked him if Saturday was cool. He said it was.

Only hitch in that plan was that Hurricane Irene was expected to rail the Northeast on Saturday, making its way up the coast, bringing floods, high winds, downed trees, lightning and other things not conducive to driving at all, let alone 170 miles. You know, now that I put the number to it, the whole proposition seems unreasonable.

Not unreasonable enough, it turns out. Relatively early Saturday morning, The Patient Mrs. and I loaded into the car and made our way south and west to Red Lion, a small-ish town outside of York. I had heard and read and looked at all the maps and the progression of the storm and everything seemed to point to our being able to get to Pennsylvania and back before the worst hit. I’ve already driven in some pretty atrocious weather this year. What was the worst this hurricane could do?

It was raining when I got out there, and hard. The picture above of dark clouds and rolling hillsides I took after dropping The Patient Mrs. at a local Panera so she could continue the work on her laptop she’d been doing the whole drive and headed to the guy’s apartment to spend some time perusing his collection. Not too much time, though, because the wind was picking up.

When he met me outside, Frank, the man in his late-50s/early-60s whose collection I was there to see, asked if I had any weapons on me. I did not, and I judged by the awesomeness of his moustache that he didn’t either, so we made our way inside so I could see his wares. His chihuahua growling at me the entire time, I made my way slowly and, at first, haphazardly through the rows and stacks of alphabetized discs, periodically looking outside to check the conditions, which seemed to ebb and flow as different arms of the storm passed through.

The collection itself was as advertised in both quality and quantity. There had to be 5,000-plus discs spread across the racks. They were stacked two rows deep on bookshelves and piled — organized; nothing was without purpose — in corners. I’d been hoping to find a copy of Keg Full of Dynamite by Pentagram, or some old Sabbath bootlegs, but no such luck. Nonetheless, our man Frank was clearly someone who had just been collecting CDs since the inception of the format, and I was able to find (literally) a stack of releases that saved me months of eBaying.

He charged $10 a piece for each of the three Pagan Altar full-lengths, for Speed, Glue & Shinki‘s 1971 outing, Eve, for the long out of print first edition of Spiritual Beggars‘ debut, for records by Dust, Abramis Brama, Elonkorjuu, Terra Firma, Desert Saints, Privilege, Generous Maria, Toad and Riff Cannon, for the first issue of Josiah‘s self-titled, and, in a departure from the others that even Frank noted, The Arcanum by German folk metallers Suidakra.

A word about that record: I first heard it via downloaded mp3s in 2000, when it was released. The whole folk metal thing was still at least half a decade off, and I was into it because it was a more extreme version of melodeath. But I had little interest in owning physical media at the time (I burned discs and kept them in a binder), and it later turned out that the label screwed over the band, kept the rights, and the album went out of print. It’s something I’ll probably listen to once — haven’t yet — and stick on my shelf to gather dust, because it’s just not where my tastes lie at this point, but it’s something I genuinely never thought I’d find. I never thought I’d find that record. And then, $10 to Frank and it was mine.

The only thing he didn’t charge me $10 for, in fact, was the digipak special edition of Hammer of the North, by Grand Magus. It was $20, but the album has yet to have a CD release in the US, and I figured he had probably paid even more for the import than I was, so it was worth the price nonetheless.

As he totaled up my selections from the sundry shelves and stacks of his library, I began to put myself in his place, and wonder what it would take for me to allow someone into my home to peruse, pick out, scrutinize and ultimately walk away with pieces of my collection. I had more selections than I took home with me. Albums by Fuzzy Duck, Bloodrock (it was Bloodrock 2), Lucifer’s Friend and the recently-burned-for-me Tin House he said I simply couldn’t have, as they were too dear to him to part with. He explained that all the metal stuff, all the more modern rock stuff, that could all go, but the ’70s heavy bands were what he grew up with, and he was sorry.

His failing health turned out to be the reason he was selling. He needed the money more than he needed the discs, so out they were going. I expressed my sympathies, forked over $190 of the total $200 I’d brought with me, and left knowing I could have spent hours more finding treasure among those racks, of which I’ve dreamed not once, but twice in the now-four nights since.

Using my manliest navigational sensibilities, I suggested cutting north early before heading east to get ahead of the storm, and The Patient Mrs., now retrieved from the aforementioned Panera, was in agreement. It rained most of our way back, heavy at times, but we still got in well under the wire for the most damaging winds, floods, etc. Still funny to see how few people were on the road by the time we landed back in Jersey, though. Cracked open a couple beers, admired the stack of recent acquisitions (at least I did), and waited for the world to end — which, despite the local highway collapse, flooding, downed power lines and the rest, it did not do.

I’ll admit it wasn’t the safest idea I’ve ever had to drive for such a long time with the threat of a hurricane looming. All the same, I regret nothing for what I was able to pick up in Red Lion, and I know I’ll always look at those albums in the picture above and remember the day I went and found them with the wind howling outside and the torrents of rain blocking visibility on the ride home. It was stupid, yeah, but it was also precisely my favorite kind of adventure.

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Frydee Toad

Posted in Bootleg Theater on December 18th, 2009 by JJ Koczan

“Stay” was the first single from Swiss hard rockers Toad in 1971. The band formed after splitting with the psychedelic group Brainticket and just gradually got heavier as time went on. This shit rules. They only ever put out three albums — Toad, Tomorrow Blue and Dreams (and someday I’ll own all of them) — but that doesn’t stop any of it from being awesome. Hey man, not everyone could have Blue Cheer‘s tour schedule. Anyway, hope you dig it.

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