It’s been a while since Tad Doyle made his musical presence felt. There was a brief and partial reunion of TAD in 2013, but the last time Tad himself actually released anything significant was Hog Molly’s Kung Fu Cocktail Grip 15 years ago.
Not that he’s been entirely silent of course; there have been rumblings. Brothers Of The Sonic Cloth have been bubbling away for a number of years, but have only a split 10” to show for it. Most recently, his contribution to Lumbar’s emotionally charged album The First And Last Days Of Unwelcome pointed to the notion that Doyle was headed in a darker, heavier direction.
TAD of course was one of the most thunderous bands to emerge from the grunge explosion of the early ’90s. Not for nothing was their album Inhaler promoted with a picture of Bill Clinton toking on a spliff and saying “This is heavy shit”. This was a band whose first album was called God’s Balls. Those are some pretty weighty knackers. At the time, a lot was made of Doyle’s enormous bear like frame, but the real heaviness was in those riffs and vocal lines; only Melvins really came close.
Brothers Of The Sonic Cloth finds Tad and his cohorts (Peggy Doyle on bass, and drummer Dave French) conjuring up wave after wave of sludge encrusted doom. This is more than just a collection of blackened tectonic riffs however; Doyle’s deft songwriting ensures that there’s considerable subtlety and hidden depths to these songs.
None of this sublety is present in the opening salvo of Lava however. The band roar out of the traps and quickly lay down a series of huge, pulverising riffs. The TAD DNA is clear, but this is not about rekindling past glories, just a successful attempt at a stranglehold. Empires Of Dust is anything but quick, and the band immediately slams the brakes on. Tad’s vocals ooze over the sledgehammer riffs like satanic treacle, as the song thunders emphatically around him. It is grand, terrifying, and utterly wondrous.
If Empires Of Dust is an effective, but perhaps simplistic slab, Unnamed finds the trio expanding their approach considerably. They veer from an introduction of undistorted echoing guitars, through the inevitable thundering doom and into a phenomenally effective mix of shoegaze and death metal. The final few minutes couples a strong vocal hook with an insistent chugging riff to create a formidable momentum that carries over into the lurking 10 minute monster, La Mano Poderosa. The first section of the song establishes a hypnotic groove that Tad inhabits like a roaring god. From there, they open up the dynamic range considerably, with the thunderous riffs giving way to a haze of melodic guitar noise that is eventually enveloped by yet more colossal, breathtaking riffs from Doyle.
After such a gargantuan effort, it’s no surprise that the I Am sees the band in more contemplative mood. It starts out like a reinterpretation of Lou Reed’s The Bed, and develops into a propulsive wave of post-metal. It’s here that Tad really finds his voice, singing and screaming his way through his lines, and infusing them with a palpable sense of emotion. As impressive as the doom and sludge aspects of the album are, it’s I Am that feels like a real statement of intent and purpose. After 15 years of relative silence, it’s good to have Tad Doyle back and in such fine form. God’s balls, This is heavy shit.