10 Albums That Inspired Toadstone
Our sound is influenced by a large and diverse mix of different artists and genres including; folk, metal, prog, goth and orchestral music. Here Mike tries to pick 10 albums that have had the biggest impact on his writing for Toadstone:
Rush - Moving Pictures
Hearing this album was what first turned me onto progressive rock. “Limelight”, in particular, opened up my mind to a completely new way of looking at song writing, the song notably switches time signatures in the middle of it’s chorus, a simple trick that drastically changes the mood and energy of the song. It completely changed the way I looked at songwriting and would lead me on to writing music that could move between different emotions to help tell a story. Another brilliant thing about this album and Rush’s music in general is how they can include so much complexity and unusual ideas while keeping the music very accessible.
Comus - First Utterance
Comus are a band who are utterly unique. I've always been interested in music that sounds genuinely terrifying or sinister, it's a difficult thing to pull off without coming across as comical or purely theatrical and I can only think of a handful of good examples. You only have to look at the legions of heavy metal bands trying their best to be scary to see that it's an incredibly difficult thing to get right, most just come off kind of goofy.
When I found this album it was exactly what I had been searching for for a long time. I had known for a while that there was potential to use folk music stylings and instrumentation to create something that was legitimately disturbing, the equivalent of folk horror films like "The Wickerman" but in musical form, this album is the perfect example of that.
The music is deeply unsettling. The playing feels raw and spontaneous and the band demonstrated tremendous creativity with how they used their instruments and voices to create all manner of unusual sounds and textures.
Opeth - Heritage
I'm a big fan of Mikael Åkerfeldt’s songwriting and would be hard pushed to pick a favourite Opeth album but this one has probably had the biggest effect on me as a songwriter.
With this album the band managed to capture a style that I really enjoy and is very unique even within the band’s own discography. There’s a timeless feel to the whole album, it has kind of a retro jazzy thing going on but still sounds modern.
Famine is a track that I found very interesting from an orchestration point of view. That track in particular captured something that I was very keen to incorporate in our own music. It opened my eyes with regards to how to get the sound I was looking for and is one of the main reasons I wanted to use flutes and ethnic percussion instruments when I started putting the band together.
Jethro Tull - Songs From The Wood
As a fan of both prog rock and folk music this album was huge for me when I first discovered it and showed me how effective it could be to marry the two genres together. The album opens with the title track and when I first heard it I was absolutely blown away, it's absolutely nuts, as if Gentle Giant had tried to write "Bohemian Rhapsody".
The album's themes are based around life in the British countryside and folklore, an unusual choice at the time punk was blowing up and would be continued through their next album, the equally brilliant "Heavy Horses". These are obviously very similar to themes that we’ve tried to incorporate into our own music although we approach it from a very different angle. The arranging on the album is also absolutely amazing and definitely something to aspire to as a songwriter.
Igor Stravinsky - The Rite of Spring
Ok, so maybe it's not an album but this is a piece of music that has had a huge impact on me. I first heard it watching "Fantasia" as a child and it's stayed with me ever since. Like Comus' "First Utterance" this is a scary piece of music and for me it sets the benchmark for dramatic music. If ever I need ideas I know that there's always something I can learn from this one.
Van Der Graaf Generator - Pawn Hearts
Van Der Graaf Generator are one of the more avant garde of the prog bands of the early 70s, sharing the darker sound of King Crimson over the more upbeat or whimsical sounds of bands like Genesis or Yes. This album has a somewhat maniacal quality and strong sense of tension which doesn’t really let up until the end of “A Plague of Lighthouse Keepers”.
Genesis - Foxtrot
I really could have picked any Genesis album from Steve Hackett’s tenure with the band. I think at that point the band were writing some amazing music and in my opinion were the best of the 70s prog rock bands at utilising music to tell stories. I think with Genesis there was more of a focus on using the emotional elements of music to support a narrative than their contemporaries were attempting. They were also incredibly good at writing and supporting melodies which is something that continued to serve the band well even into their pop-ier and solo material later on.
Going back to Steve Hackett, his playing with the band is incredibly creative and distinctive, I think he is probably the largest influence on my guitar approach for Toadstone.
The track Foxtrot is best known for is the epic “Supper’s Ready”. The song runs at around 20 minutes changing through many different sections, the song’s influence on our own “The Lambton Worm” is probably quite obvious.
The Hare And The Moon - Wood Witch
I came across this album while working on the first Toadstone album. Above all I find the production of this one really effective, the sound is very stripped back and foreboding. Grey Malkin has really succeeded in giving the material an eerie and unsettling feel that I’ve tried to incorporate into our music as much as possible.
The Strawbs - From the Witchwood
This is one of my favorite Strawbs albums although I enjoy all the albums from this point in the band’s career. The album contains both gentle folkier material such as “Witchwood” through to more angsty and aggressive material such as “Sheep”. The orchestration of the album is somewhat usual being a mix of folky stringed instruments, gentle vocal harmonies and Rick Wakeman’s organ playing which blends together surprisingly well. Dave Cousins is an amazing songwriter and this really shows on tracks like “Witchwood”, one we have covered, and “The Hangman and the Papist” which is a fantastic piece of folky storytelling.
Marc Wilkinson - Blood on Satan’s Claw
This is the soundtrack to the 1971 horror film. The music is quite sparse with strong melodic motifs that recur throughout. Rather than a big orchestral approach the music is quite minimal, using mainly solo instruments such as flutes to create something very light and pastoral feeling as befits the film’s rural and isolated setting. The soundtrack is also notable for its use of the unusual Ondes Martenot, an early electronic instrument that brings a mysterious and dream-like quality to the music.