CS Independent- Dec, 10th 2009

Long live the bull

El Toro de la Muerte transition from Harry Houdini to the Human Lightning Rod

El Toro de la Muerte, roughly translated, means the Bull of Death. It's a somewhat odd moniker for a band better known for intricate harmonies and epic instrumentation than the speed, power or darkness that the English translation might have you believe.

But, in other ways, it's the perfect metaphor for the Colorado Springs group's intricate and lusciously layered, alt-drenched modern bar-rock: the intimate dance of the matador and the bull, teasingly intertwined in a display of grace, seduction and, ultimately, death.

That mix of beauty and drama permeated the group's 2007 debut EP, Atop the Belle Isle. An expertly drafted concept album, it was inspired by the life and death of legendary illusionist Harry Houdini. Atop complex harmonies, Toro indulged in cleverly written metaphors and double entendres, rich with imagery and urgency.

"They say that you risked too much this time / But I know you'll escape somehow alive," they sing in the carnival-esque waltz "Blood on Their Tongues," while the more up-tempo country/western romp "Sometimes You Eat the Bar" (possibly the greatest-ever ode to the act of regurgitation) salutes... untimely demise with the line, "If I time it all just right / I'll be handsome when I die."

The group's new material is no less concept-driven: "It makes for interesting lyrical content," says Toro bass player Mike Nipp, who, along with vocalist/keyboardist Jeff Fuller, is a former member of Colorado Springs' seminal indie-pop powerhouse, Against Tomorrow's Sky. "It's fun to write about. Instead... of writ(ing) about chicks every song."

El Toro de la Muerte was originally formed as a "power duo" in early 2006 by guitarist/keyboardist Ryan Spradlin and Julian Dumont, one of the hardest-hitting drummers in Colorado. (Disclosure: Over a decade ago, Julian and I played together in ghoul-punk outfit the Deadites, where he would often break drum pedals. Not sticks, mind you, pedals!) Sensing insufficient "power" in the duo, they went on to recruit the ATS refugees. Toro turned into a quintet with the addition of Jay Schwan, who first joined the group for its Halloween 2008 tribute to the Cure.

The band's highly anticipated new album will be recorded at Denver's 8 Houses Down early next year. This time the songs, such as the already-Internet-leaked "1970: Watching Weather Build" and "1972: Sour Rain," revolve around a man named Roy Sullivan, aka the Human Lightning Rod. Born in 1912, Sullivan was hit by lightning, and survived, on seven separate occasions. Reportedly, he eventually ended his own life, distraught over a woman, at the age of 71.

"The wrath of God, I can handle that," says Fuller. "The wrath of woman ... done for."

Adam Leech

CS Independent- May 22nd, 2009

“implausibly awesome indie rock decomposers El Toro de la Muerte”

Adam Leech

Denver Westword- April 8, 2009

“When you call your band "The Bull of Death," you have to excuse people for thinking you play some variety of metal-core. This  quintet is almost as far removed from that kind of thing as possible — except that a couple of these guys were once in heavy-as-heavy-can-be bands... You wouldn't know it from the delicate instrumentation and harmonies that make up the music of de la Muerte (due at the Larimer Lounge on Saturday, April 11). Sounding a bit like an indie-rock version of Supertramp, replete with a diverse array of instrumentation, this outfit trades in a richly appointed pop that borders on symphonic without coming off as pretentious. Despite the group's menacing name, its music is as gentle and smart as it is well honed.”

Tom Murphy

CS Independent- April 2nd, 2009

Bring the Noise...

Area acts to keep your eye on

“ El Toro de la Muerte ( El Toro may have won Nosh's 2008 "Tejon, Tunes and Tapas" competition, but it's still as far from your typical battle of the bands winner as you can get. Imagine if Jane's Addiction's Perry Farrell could sing better and pulled together a rock band full of art students and ex-carnies, and you're part of the way there.”

Bill Forman

The Dallas Observer- Feb 12th, 2008

“And last, but certainly not least, we've got El Toro De La Muerte.  Probably my favorite of the bunch and probably the most experienced as well, these guys combine crafty songwriting with a certain je ne sais quois -- like you feel like you've heard a band that sounds just like them before, but you can't quite place exactly who that band is. Either way, they're pretty rockin'. And they throw one hell of an annual Halloween show/party.”

Pete Freedman