Written by: Kev Rowland
Some five years after their last studio release, Toxic Smile finally returned in 2009 with a four-track EP. This saw the first studio appearance of drummer Antonius Gruetzner, who has already become known to fans due to his part in the ‘In Classic Extension’ EP. Although this only contains four songs, and is a fraction under 23 minutes in length, this is definitely one of my very favourite releases by the band. It is almost as if they decided to distil and funnel everything they were known for into a small number of songs, so instead of getting a release by Toxic Smile, it was Toxic Smile Concentrated. Although Antonius was new, he had already been in the band for a few years so knew what was expected, and sits at the back creating rhythms for the others to play against or with as the need arises. Robert Brenner is one of my favourites bassists, seamlessly moving between playing a support or lead role, thumping in the backbone, or keeping up with the guitar, or adding nuances and dynamics all his own. Then we have guitarist Uwe Reinholz, a master of his instrument who provides plucked acoustic, or heavy riffs, or can shred like an absolute bastard when he needs to. This of course leads us to keyboard player Marek, who uses piano more than probably any other keyboard player in the prog metal field, with all the delicacy and emotion that entails. Finally at the front of all of this, and rising above, is singer Larry B., who can be Roger Chapman, Matthew Parmenter, Peter Gabriel, Michael Sadler and so many more, often at the same time.
Just four songs, two of which are rocky, with two that are far more balladic, but for the me the highlight is not the one that many other reviewers seem to concentrate on (which is opener “Solitudes Sphere” if you must know, an absolute belter), but “Freezing Rain”. Marek provides beautiful piano, while Larry’s vocals are full of emotion. I can play this song on repeat, all day, and not get tired of it. There is a majesty and passion within this that is far more than any written words can ever convey. If there was any justice in the world this would have been a hit single and known by millions, but as it is, us lucky few who have come across this can relish in knowing that we have been privileged to have heard a song that is perfect in every way, and that is an incredibly rare thing indeed. Uwe, Robert and Antonius play their parts incredibly well, knowing that there are times when the right thing to do is not be involved at all, and Marek and Larry are left alone to create a masterpiece.
Solituoes Sphere // Insights // Peak Of Delight // Freezing Rain