Written by: Kev Rowland
In 2015 Toxic Smile returned with their next studio album (which is also currently the most recent, although as I know they were performing at a festival only last weekend so don’t read anything into the title). Although the band themselves were the same line-up as the last album, this time they brought in a string ensemble to broaden the sound even further. I also see that Martin Schnella helped out with backing vocals as well as mixing and mastering the album (Martin of course plays with Marek in Seven Steps To The Green Door). Unlike all their other albums, this is not a series of songs, but instead has been released as just one 42-minute-long number. Thematically, it deals with the philosophical point of view that the sense of hearing is better suited to perceive the world than the sense of seeing. The “Hearer” cam rather delve into the essence of things, penetrate deeper than the “Seer” who only scratches the surface and is blind to everything that lies beneath.
Musically, this all that I would expect from Toxic Smile, with great depth, presence and dynamics. Uwe is a guitarist of the very finest order, and in Marek he has found a real soul mate. There are very few guitar/keyboard partnerships that really stand the test of time, and while Lord/Blackmore and Hensley/Box are often put out there as fine examples, in reality they didn’t last that many years together whereas at this point they had been recording for some fifteen years and have been together nearly 20. Add to that the wonderful bassist that is Robert Brenner (who on this release also provides the artwork), and one of the very best singers around in Larry B., one can only hope that drummer Robert Eisfeldt lasts longs than the previous incumbents. This is a an epic piece, in format as well as length, yet is always incredibly accessible and enjoyable. There is no doubt in my mind that Toxic Smile are one of the finest prog bands to come out of Europe, and I look forward to the next release with interest. Mind you, I’m not too sure when that is going to be as Marek is already talking to me about the next SSTTGD album, which will be out later this year, so maybe after that? I really hope so.