Opposite Gods by Tod Howarth

Opposite Gods by Tod HowarthLike a fine wine, Tod Howarth (Frehley’s Comet, Cheap Trick, Ted Nugent) demonstrates with his new CD Opposite Gods that in the 10 years since his last solo rock CD West of Eight was released he has improved with age, becoming even more nuanced and complex.

A long time coming, Opposite Gods was truly a labor of love. Tomorrow I’ll be posting an interview I did with Tod about the album, but to give you an idea of the herculean task making Opposite Gods was here’s a quote from the liner notes: “Produced, recorded, mixed, and mastered under dire conditions by me… the variables took their toll.”

And he does mean by him. As with his prior releases, being the extremely talented musician that he is Tod once again is responsible for everything you hear coming from your speakers: guitars, drums, bass, keyboards, all vocals… the man is literally a one man band. And a damn good one at that!

Though the 13 track album is tip-top from start to finish, there are some songs that stand out to me for one reason or another. So, a few highlights:

“Drown” – As with any rock album worth its salt, Opposite Gods opens with an absolute burner. “Hello all you bitches, in your glossy magazines… you’re the entertainment for the feeble minded.” Hello, indeed! “Drown” is a scathing, yet lyrically playful, indictment of the cult of personality in America that makes celebrities of people whose only ‘talent’ is being famous: “Just icons, all image.” Yet despite the playfulness, there’s also an understandable sense of irony to the song; how could there not be when a song about the talentless famous is being performed by a man dripping with talent who literally plays every instrument, sings every vocal, and produced, mixed and mastered the song himself to boot. I’ve always thought you can tell a lot about how an album is going to go based on the opening track, and with that in mind “Drown” certainly sets the pace.

“Opposite Gods” – Two songs later in the album’s title track, however, Tod shows he’s more than capable of shifting gears from playful and sarcastic to tackle the always serious and charged topic of faith and religion. Given that most major religions have the same basic tenets at their core, Tod wonders how there can be so many different – and conflicting – paths one can supposedly take to get from Point A (leading a just life) to Point B (spiritual reward). Even more puzzling, how can any religion justify killing others in the name of its God? “The reasons they all fail me, regardless of faith, and with opposite gods there’s just no harmony.” Fitting for a song about conflict and multiple paths the lyrics are deeply layered, occasionally ‘step’ on each other, and many are delivered via call and response. Definitely a heavy hitter.

“The Artist” – A message from Tod to his artist son, this hauntingly beautiful song explores the frustration that a deeply passionate artist can experience looking for a life partner who feels the passion for life and art as deeply as they do. “Life keeps you waiting for the memories worth the while and worth the time.” A floating, airy keyboard acts as the song’s subtle road map allowing the guitars to wander and explore, like the artist, yet always providing the anchor for their return. An absolutely sublime acoustic guitar solo is the perfect compliment to the aching, yet hopeful lyrics. Easily my favorite song on the album.

Opposite Gods by Tod Howarth“Alfi’s Torment” – An all vocal track consisting of only two words, “Alfi’s Torment” nevertheless manages to pack quite a punch. That’s because those two words are delivered via 8 layered vocal tracks from Tod, which were then double tracked for an end result 16 part harmony that sounds like an eerie, slightly malevolent Gregorian chant. Originally to be called “Infidel Chant,” how the song got its final name is a funny story:

“While I was singing every track Alfi, our dog, was lying on a blanket near the console seemingly sleeping until I would hit the way freaking high notes or the hauntingly strange midrange and low note melodies, whereupon he would lift his head and look at me as if to say “Just what in the fuck are you doing?” and then of course lay his head back down. This happened so often that I would start to laugh during the tracking and have to start over again. Thus the name change.”

Funny how such a heavy track has such a lighthearted story behind it.

“October Son” – Epic. There is simply no other way to describe the transcendental splendor that is the 10:24 long instrumental track “October Son.” Even without words “October Son” still tells more of a story than 90% of today’s disposable bands could ever hope to with an entire album of lyrics. At times gentle and soothing, then driving and insistent, this atmospheric keyboard driven song is a pulsing, live thing. Fittingly enough, trying to describe it in words just can’t fully do this instrumental track justice. So, buy the CD, cue up the track, grab a glass of wine, turn down the lights and immerse yourself in one of the lushest music experiences you will ever encounter.

Other notable tracks include “Jimbos Bunk” (Tod’s tribute to his best friend, who was paralyzed in a motorcycle accident), “Layne” (a tip of the cap from one musician to another, the late Layne Staley of Alice in Chains: “No ordinary songs ’cause you did, you broke the chains. And now you’re so far gone, but what you sang it still remains.”), “On Your Own” (another offering of fatherly advice, this time for his daughter Tara, the song showcases exquisite acoustic guitar work), and “Veterans” (a wonderful tribute to veterans of the United States armed forces: “Forever in my heart you remain, forever with a scar but never shame. Forever in my heart.”).

With Opposite Gods Tod demonstrates in no uncertain terms that while one hit wonders and flavors-of-the-month will always flame out, true talent will burn brightly forever. Now, let’s just hope he doesn’t make us wait another 10 years to get the next incendiary CD to stoke the fire.

You can learn more about Tod, and order his new CD Opposite Gods, by visiting Tod’s website. You can also find Tod on Facebook and MySpace.

Opposite Gods: CD Preview –

1 Comment

  • Tamara

    July 7, 2010 - 7:55 AM

    Thanks for this excellent post.