!T.O.O.H! – Under the Reign of the Whip (2002)
Just like its artwork, the music of T.O.O.H’s album Under the Reign of the Whip (Pod Vládou Biče) is the less refined, more chaotic and primitive, but probably more vital predecessor to its successor. Your brain hemorrhages will heal in time, don’t worry.
I’d thought Order and Punishment was pretty intense and bizarre, but once I picked up this album (admittedly, before I reviewed the other one), I became aware of how much order this band’s 3rd album had added to the formula. Pod Vládou Biče seems to hew a little closer to the band’s grindcore/death metal roots, although much of the content here achieves similar levels of melody, consonance, and shredlust. At times, there appear to be a few vaguely folk-flavored motifs, but this might just be me being an unreliable narrator, especially since I don’t think I’ve ever listened to Czech folk music. Either way, everything here seems more intense than later on – Humanoid’s screams, the style of riffing, even the production is louder, with a particularly resonant snare. At times, the songs here sound perversely cheerful despite their subject matter; it could be a result of the way T.O.O.H uses song structure and tonality.
Even though the evolutionary links between this album and Honor and Punishment are usually quite easy to pick up on, a lot of what gives this album its particularly character didn’t transfer over to the band’s future works. For instance, there’s a lot more chording in riffs – which along with the production makes the entire album sound thicker and denser. The compositions also rely more on tempo and rhythm changes for variety; since this is a tool that its successor did not employ, Pod Vládou Biče often ends up with more complex arrangements, even if it rarely reaches the same heights of technicality. The only real obvious link is again in the prog-rock influenced shredding; both of these albums are full of guitar sweeps and other sorts of fast picking that definitely fit the aesthetic, regardless of whether they’re to the listener’s taste or not. Being familiar with both of these albums (Welcome to “Duh”), I’d say that most of these differences take some time to attune to – the similarities, as previously mentioned, are more obvious, and both albums listen like what you’d expect from T.O.O.H.
The vague sense of freshness and vitality I mentioned earlier was what drew me to Pod Vládou Biče, but careful analysis was what really pushed it ahead of Order and Punishment in my mental categories; this also gave me a better understanding of both albums! The moral of the story is that there is enjoyment and pleasure in overanalyzing music, even when analysis leads you to believe an album is better by virtue of… perhaps not being overthought.
Highlights: “Šlapeto”, “Bezcenné Se Rodí A Cenné Mizí”, “Aura & Ziata”