By: Garviel Loken
Analog tape? Songs tracked live? Vintage gear? TOAD answers definitively yes on "Rotten Tide," a ripping and infectious album that won't leave your memory anytime soon. It is impossible to pause this album, the devil or some lesser demon just won't let you walk away from experiencing the complete work. Besides, before you know it, the music ends. In less than twenty-two minutes spread across five songs, this unholy creation of sound releases all the foul things that dwell in the dark spaces and casts them upon your ears.
Chimerical in nature, the songs take you on one hell of a ride through valleys of death and tall mountains of black, but above all and somewhat strangely, a good old rock and roll/punk feel permeates the rhythms of the each track. Straight forward yet intricate and raw, there is an organic grandeur to the song structures that makes them sound full and huge. These aspects are further enhanced by the fact that this album was recorded live and on analog tape, bringing warmth and richness to the tones, especially the guitars, which are fully dimensional and crunchy. The drums and bass thunder like the earth splitting at the end of time, and the vocals... we'll save that part for later on down the road.
A good demonstration of the huge sound on "Rotten Tide" can be found about half a minute into opening track Midnight Hunger. This riff is the audio equivalent of Hannibal crushing the Romans at Cannae, utterly awesome and powerful, but still only a prologue of what is to come. Throughout songs such as Pale Nimbus and Morning Disgust, TOAD continually holds the listener enthralled with a varied approach of technique and tempo, yet they never relent in rocking you. Catchy and profoundly memorable, there isn't a single wasted passage or boring moment. There is only thick, ugly, and dirty heaviness.
As good as the music is, there is one final aspect of the monster that moves it up a notch to excellent: the vocals. Caustic and full of bile, they spew forth from the speakers with raw power. Having a mid range growl that drops lower on some notes and higher on others, the vocalist has a style and sound that is vaguely reminiscent of LG Petrov from Entombed. The delivery is spot on and full of sincerity, perfectly conveying anger, despair, and madness. They make a seamless, perfect fit with the music on "Rotten Tide," completing and complementing the formidable compositions.
In conclusion, TOAD has created a great album with a full and amazing analog sound that defies easy classification. Call it death metal, post-metal, or doom, it is all of those, but as noted previously, at the core it is a rock album. If this was the original intention of the band, they have succeeded admirably. What might they come up with next? This is an exciting prospect to look forward to and while only time will tell, "Rotten Tide" is certainly a masterful beginning and a weather vane that points to heavy, dark, and analog.
Final Score: 8/10