Album Review: Toehider – Mainly Songs About Robots

Today is another massive music release date. Unfortunately, I haven’t had the chance to sit down and listen to any of the new albums yet! Expect next week to be chock full of new release posts.

In the meantime, there is one EP that’s I’ve picked up, consisting of one of the talented voices behind Ayreon’s last album “The Theory of Everything.” That man is Michael Mills and his Australian progressive rock band Toehider. Ever since I first heard his falsetto voice, I was immediately baffled by his range and power. His latest album “Mainly Songs About Robots” perfectly exemplifies how extraordinary it is.

When I learned “Mainly Songs About Robots” was his fifteenth EP, I wondered why so many EP’s and not any LP’s. Turns out Mills is aiming for 12 EP’s in 12 months, a feat that reminds me of John Frusciante’s own project. Despite it’s length, I cannot complain, considering the quality of his recent EP. Containing four songs spanning roughly 25 minutes, it’s worth the charge to the debit card. A refreshing change of pace and a different interpretation on what it means to be “progressive,” the album spotlights Michael Mills on vocals/guitars, but also features guest Vinny Appice on the drums, better known for his work as the drummer for Heaven and Hell, Black Sabbath, and Dio. With all the over-the-top, almost comedic moments on this album, I was infatuated with what I heard.

With a Queen-like approach to his vocal delivery, Mills comes across as a larger than life character in “Mainly Songs About Robots.” The first song “On and On” begins with the acoustic guitar, easily reminding me of Joey Eppard’s (3) solo material. After a few seconds, the rest of the band chimes in, featuring Mills’ wails and Appice’s beats. I love Appice’s presence in the song; Bringing a heavy metal feel to the rhythm section, he relies on the crashing of the cymbals and the high hat. The chords and pick scratching of the guitar also reminds me of Thomas Erak from The Fall of Troy, with a heavy overdriven sound over a lot of minor notes.

The next song “What I Saw” begins with sound manipulation, followed by a country western/flamenco feel, mixed with anything by Devin Townsend. Sounds crazy, right? It’s because it is! Describing an unknown yet offensive scene in a hospital, the flamenco vibe especially picks up in the solo halfway through the song. What follows is “Gridlines ’15,” a re-interpretation of a prior song he released. That country sound is present again in this song, fitting the subject matter of a boy trying to be saved. Honestly, I’m not a huge fan of country music, so having two songs in this matter felt a little overkill to me personally, but is in no way a criticism on their skill. Luckily, when I say “country,” I mean Mills’ progressive interpretation of the genre, which is interesting enough for me to follow. The bridge section sounds like something from Opeth, using some hollow keyboard effect that reminds me of “Watershed.”

Photo by Toehider (Facebook)

“Mainly Songs About Robots” closes with “No, Not You… YOU,” easily the hardest song on the album. Mills provides his best vocal performance in this song, switching between high falsettos down to a mid-range level. In fact, the higher he goes, the more he sounds like Craig Owens from the band Chiodos. The presence of keyboards and additional sound manipulation complements the subject of what I believe is a man turning into a robot with the help of doctors. Appice again shines on the drums, instead showing off with quick-paced tom and floor pedal hits. The album closes with a symphonic sounding choir, pleading “no, not you!”

A comedic and interesting version of progressive rock, I definitely recommend “Mainly Songs About Robots” by Toehider, especially to fans who’ve heard him on “The Theory of Everything” by Ayreon. You can support them by checking out their Bandcamp page, or by following them on Facebook and Twitter. With all these EP’s he’s released, I have my work cut out for me listening to his entire catalogue.

Enjoy a complimentary listen of “Mainly Songs About Robots” through Bandcamp below:

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