Review: Toadliquor ‘Back In The Hole’

What has brought Toadliquor crawling back out of the woodwork after being dormant for so long? Indeed, who are these mysterious doom-mongers? Southern Lord would love us to get excited and speculate, but that’s their job, and our work here is to listen to the music…

Their initial run long predates my listening history with such putrid sputterings, carving a sound from the nihilistic aesthetics of early sludge – broken gear, breaking bodies, dragging rags in dirt.

Toadliquor 'Back In The Hole' Artwork
Toadliquor ‘Back In The Hole’ Artwork

Less groove-based and bluesy than my entry points to this sort of sound (Iron Monkey, EyeHateGod) Toadliquor were a band I saw referenced occasionally and had heard a couple of MP3s from, but I suspect that their biggest impact was on ‘those who were there’.

So, a band of a time and place, resurfacing from obscurity, with a fair heft of reputation as Real Deal miserable doom. The initial attack of First Crush does enough to justify any anticipation – squalling feedback, despondent wails, doomed trudge of sludge, and a cute malicious grin in the wordplay of the title. Toadliquor open with a statement that they know what they’re about, and they can do this all day, or indeed for twenty-five years.

And to be quite honest that was what I was expecting from Back In The Hole – an enjoyable (to some) slog through grubby sounds, a band who had dug out a few more jam room riffs and put them to tape. However, there is something different in this new Toadliquor, beyond the willingness to celebrate Black Sabbath’s influence on the sound more openly in warmer mid-paced sections.

a tasty selection of audio nasties with a few twists along the way…

I refer here to the corner of my notepad that’s headed ‘surprises’ – flashes of jazz and weirdo sax, an expansion into a crunchy post-metal sound in Basement, a slide into queasy opiate dub. Toadliquor seem to be showing a willingness to experiment and unsettle which made me think of I Klatus and their 2022 album Targeted, whether from ambition or simple mischief, it is hard to say.

Listening as a reviewer, it’s a puzzle where this experimentation comes from, it can hardly be a new spirit of recklessness, as Toadliquor never gave much of an impression of caring what you thought first time around. I suppose it matters little really – here are some heavy songs, they go a bit strange at times, and I’m inclined just to enjoy it. Anything that I could apply critically – sometimes it’s a bit disjointed, the vocals get samey and the band as a whole sound like they’re just doing whatever they feel like which they could reasonably answer with ‘yeah, we know’.

Maybe that is the luxury this sort of unexpected reappearance brings, as opposed to the weight of expectation. All overthinking aside, this is a tasty selection of audio nasties with a few twists along the way, and it’s worth a dabble if you have a yen for doomed sludge.

Label: Southern Lord
Band Links: Bandcamp | Spotify

Scribed by: Harry Holmes