It's not often that a band's social media bio nails it, but Tempe metal band TOAD's is a rare exception. There's no hyperbole, no invoking the names of far-out influences to seem "cultured."
It's straight and honest: "An American rock 'n' roll band from the 1970s trapped inside of a Scandinavian metal band from the early 1990s, scoring a John Carpenter film," the bio reads, compactly laying out the elements that make up TOAD's distinct sound. The band injects Blue Öyster Cult's A.O.R. high drama into Entombed's Swedish death metal template, with sludge and black metal elements adding color. And then there's that pervasive horror flick influence.
If the band's last EP, Rotten Tide, was a grainy slasher flick, the band's newly released Endless Night is something else. Think 1979's Alien reimagined as a pre-Comics Code Authority EC horror rag, or some alternate reality version of Jason X ("Friday the 13th in Space") as directed by giallo pioneer Dario Argento, swapping Sam Neill out for a dose of H.R. Giger's occult eroticism. It's cosmic; it's bludgeoning. It's very good, and it adds a heavy dose of spacey atmosphere to the band's revved boogie.
"Our comrade Bob Hoag, who engineered Endless Night, has a massive horror DVD collection," the band (Andrew "Chthon" Leemont, Alex Bank Rollins, Nate Garrett, Pete Porter, Trey Wilson, and Jason Tomaszewski) explains collectively via email. "We were in the studio around Halloween, so it made sense to have horror films playing on the studio TV. We ended up playing Argento films pretty much exclusively. The songs were already written before we entered the studio, however there were some scary atmospheric parts that crept in during the actual recording process. So perhaps the constant immersion in Argento's work was one of the causes of these parts materializing, who knows."
"Cosmophobia" demonstrates the band's nuanced approach. While no one would blame them for sticking to breakneck styles (seeing as they do it very well), the song is moody and tense, sporting sweeping keys from Porter. "Howling House" shows of the band's way with a riff, but its minor key lurch shows as much depth as the album's most atmospheric moments.
Like Rotten Tide, which drew heavily on the tradition of horror anthologies like Creepshow, Endless Night again tells a series of stories. Though not strictly a concept album, the record's individual parts do add up to a whole.
"Though there is a distinct theme to the record . . . each song [tells] its own story," the band explains. "So really it's more like the idea behind Trick 'R Treat [Michael Dougherty's 2007 horror anthology] than Creepshow. Each story connects to form a greater tale."
With the title track, the band indulges its sleaziest rock 'n' roll side, sporting spiraling solos that wouldn't sound of place on the late '80s Sunset Strip. So often metal bands adhere too closely to a self-conscious code of "cool," for fear of lapsing into trite Decline of Western Civilization II: The Metal Years territory. TOAD manages to avoid sounding jokey while still acing the "young and dumb" vibe.
"We wouldn't consider our music to be the type to have a sense of humor," the band says, drawing a line between what it does and ironic metal buffoonery bands like Steel Panther delight in, but they admit that there is something to be said for exuberance.
"That being said, rock 'n' roll is supposed to be fun, and we're a rock 'n' roll band. Who wants to listen to a band that's loud and heavy, but not exciting? If you don't enjoy playing your music on some level, how can you expect anyone else to enjoy experiencing it? Our music is dark and cathartic, but we enjoy creating it and performing it. Fun, yes. Humorous, no. Bringing it back to Creepshow, our music is the most fun you'll ever have being scared."
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TOAD is scheduled to perform Sunday, August 4, at the Blacklist Collective in Tempe.
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