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Rotten Tide makes me want to take a shower. I don't mean that in the sense that "Well now that I'm covered in shit", but more "Holy hell that was dirty". I'm not sure if it's the rough production or the rock influence, but both aspects only enhance the quality of the music to be found here. This is an instance like Tiran where the dirt is also the main draw, although TOAD play something far detached from sleazy Motorhead worship.
Even though two of the tracks on Rotten Tide are pretty forgettable ("Pale Nimbus" and "Morning Disgust"), all five tracks are undeniably interesting in composition. For example, the opening track, "Midnight Hunger", starts off with a slow and haunting lead line that gives the impression that we're in store for some old school mid paced black metal (the heavily distorted screams help my assumption). It keeps along that same idea for about a minute and a half before smoothly shifting into a much more heavy metal influenced riff akin to Slough Feg's first album. Around two minutes into the track, we're greeted with a straight up USPM riff in the vein of Jag Panzer or Omen. All of this is smooth as well, it never once feels like a disjointed mishmash of styles. Each song flows extremely well, and it really helps add cohesiveness to the strangeness of the music. If I have any other complaint, it's that the percussion is fairly bland and the vocals are really monotonous in relation to how unique the music underneath them is. It isn't all bad, they certainly fit well with everything and even have a few standout moments (The "Let chaos reign!" chant in "Necrophatic Vatican" for example), so I suppose there's no real reason for them to change. There's also a distorted organ ala Deep Purple hidden somewhere in here but it's actually very hard to find. The simplicity of some aspects coupled with the creativity of others works fairly well and actually adds to the rock n' roll aspect.
Overall TOAD and Rotten Tide surely earn my recommendation. There are metallic aspects here in the aforementioned occasional riff and atmosphere, but the attitude of the band is actually a lot more rock n' roll than anything. "Embody the Ghost" is my main example for that, but it's hard for me to actually put into words. Just take a listen for yourself. Very interesting black/heavy/rock mixture.
Originally written for http://lairofthebastard.blogspot.com/
When I first came into contact with TOAD, my instinctive reaction was to scratch my head, wondering what kind of band would ever come up with such a name. It wasn't only until slightly later that I found out that this was simply an abbreviation of Take over and Destroy, and Rotten Tide is this black/sludge metal outfit's debut EP.
Unlike what the album cover depicts (which could easily mislead people into expecting an atmospheric or ambient black metal album), Rotten Tide presents to listener an extremely groovy form of black metal. The album opens with black metal-styled trem-picked riffs of Midnight Hunger, but before long the band starts going into a more groovy mode, displaying their unique style of music to the listener. From that raw guitar tone and the riffs that Alex and Nate let loose to the old-school rock 'n' roll drumming style of Shane, Rotten Tide is an extremely fun album to groove along to, though the band manages to retain some slight black metal elements throughout the album and this is most evident on the riffing patterns on some of the tracks. Aside from the ability to easily transit between different musical styles, the band also manages to infuse some element of fun in their music. For example, the catchiness of the album is also shown on the shout-a-long portion that the band included on Necrophatic Vatican. Morning Disgust even has a short organ intro that brings to mind psychedelic bands like Electric Wizard, further displaying the wide variety of influences the band has put into the release.
There are moments though when there is slight slip-up, such as that slightly sloppy riffs on Pale Nimbus, where the guitars almost seem to go out of sync with the rest of the band, though this ironically helps to add to the authentic feel of the album, further aided by the sufficiently raw production quality of the album. Overall though, this short 20 minute EP is certainly a fun album to listen to and that the band recorded this in analogue would certainly please purists who prefer the sound of true old-school recording techniques.
Sort of how Norway's Kvelertak successfully marries the youthful energy of blazing punk rock to a furious black metal rasp, so too does Arizona's TOAD conjure up a hybrid of burning, jangling rock & roll with occasional tremolo picking passages and a hoarse, tormented front man. The true joy of this Rotten Tide release, however, is the process the band used to record it, with only vintage instruments (from the 60s or 70s) and primitive distortion at hand, straight to an analog. So basically, this is a live recording, yet not a live album, and to that extent, the band sounds phenomenal, to the point that I can easily see how this might become a widespread process that many, many more bands want to get their greedy fingers on, and off their bedroom black metal home recording software.
But do the songs add up to the aural aesthetic? For the most part, though the vocals can often feel a tinge monotonous, the emotional real variation being a shift from the brutal bludgeoning to a more salacious sneer. There are five tracks here, adding up to just over 21 minutes, more or less an EP, and each brings something interesting to the table. "Midnight Hunger" rollicks through a scuffle of dire melodies, mid-paced mutes and tightly coiled thrashing acceleration, while "Pale Nimbus" evokes more of a traditional black metal aesthetic between the crushing chords and bleeding streams of dissonant melody, with a great finale. "Embody the Ghost" builds an eerie, rocking structure, and "Morning Disgust" is more open aired and breathtaking betwixt the big grooves. "Necrophatic Vatican" had an Entombed/Hellacopters thrust about it, at least until the gang shouts at the end, but this was my least favorite here.
Rotten Tide isn't bad at all. I like the imagery being conjured through both the band's choice in tonal structure and the cover art. They're doing something interesting, even if there are still a few kinks to shake out. I mentioned the vocals, and also the riffs themselves are about 50/50 on fire or dull. I'm not sure just how often I would listen to this, but if the band wa able to produce a full length using the same style but a greater dynamic range within the songwriting itself, with some more charisma to drive the lyrics down your eardrums, then I think Toad (aka Take Over and Destroy) would be worth getting excited over.