The Fat Turtles is a progressive rock band based in Iowa. It was first conceived as a metal band, but the latest release is far from that. Instead, they took inspiration from traditional prog rock bands such as Genesis and King Crimson. This inspiration is apparent in their sound featuring a high amount of keyboards and the orchestral-sounding composition. This composition is done by the primary member Luke Johnston, who also writes lyrics, records vocals, acoustic guitars, keyboards and bass. The Return of the Foggy Logger is a 15 minute EP with 3 songs telling different stories. The stories take us to worlds so different yet so similar to ours. They contemplate our assumptions about the world, and the system that is in place. The Fat Turtles are planning on releasing a full album by the end of the year. Though, to perform, they need a drummer and a keyboardist.
Luke Johnston – lead vocals, acoustic guitar, keys, bass
Noah Carrell – electric guitar
Seth Strahan – drums, percussion
Recorded at Forte Studios in Boune Iowa, produced and engineered by Mathew Lemon. Cover Art by Stephen ”Gus” Walsh.
1. Return of the Foggy Logger (6:17)
The first track of the EP starts with heavy bass action, accompanied by the drums. Though they were in unison at the beginning, the drums start to play its own rhythm – which creates a groove with 3 different parts. As the melody changes with the keyboards, we start to feel the carnival-ish environment, as if we are entering an old world full of fairy tales. As the vocal kicks in, we understand that Johnson’s intention was to create this dreamy scene – where he starts to tell us a story: “Return of The Foggy Logger”.
We certainly can hear the Yes influence all over the track, with the highly emphasized uplifting bass and keyboard sounds. After we hear the same rhythm in the intro, the vocals also sing the lyrics in unison. However this time we hear people talking on the background of the music, adding to the theatrical atmosphere and the artistic value of the piece.
After some repetitions with a variety of background noises, we sense a change of direction in the song. The dreamy acoustic guitar enters, while the bass plays a melody to wake us from our journey inside the world that the Fat Turtles created. After the dreamy interlude with Genesis influenced percussion, the song repeats itself and finally ends – leaving the taste of a mystic yet futuristic tale in our ears with catchy melodies that we will hardly forget.
If you listen to the lyrics carefully, you’ll hear that the story and the music are connected – to create a through narration for the story of The Foggy Logger. The song is about, as Johnson stated, a lumberjack that had been displaced by his job because of the automation in the world. This lumberjack, Foggy Logger, tries to destroy the machinery to stop the robots that are harming the environment. However, in the end, the narrator reveals that the machine had already cut down all the trees and that the Foggy Logger has failed.
2. Hourglass (3:55)
Compared to the opening track, “Hourglass” starts in a calmer and more serene manner. Soft and relaxing arpeggios of the 12 string guitar welcome the listeners and take them to their happy place in their mind where everything is peaceful. The band clearly shows their influences from great prog giants, especially Genesis with Mike Rutherfords’s use of the 12 string. Even from the beginning of the song, things are starting to get complicated and a lot richer. Luke Johnston’s taste in harmony shines as another melody by an acoustic guitar starts to emerge and merge with the main guitar, creating a complex but still pleasing and peaceful section which is a hard thing to manage at the same time. They create a great intro and a solid groundwork for the rest of the song with just the guitars.
The intro slowly fades away, only to return with a greater punch. With the dominant bass, beautiful unison singing by Johnston, and the deep and astounding sound of the piano, the song shocks the listener for a second but grabs their attention nevertheless. After the calm intro, this powerful part creates a contrast from the beginning and thereby shapes a grand and epic atmosphere just like a hymn.
Staring through the hourglass The sand inside erodes Time is moving slowly As present turns to past The mirror reflects my face As the contents inside Around the glass, it goes returning back in place
With these lyrics, the songwriter Johnston dives into a philosophical concept of time, as you can understand from the title: “Hourglass.” Nothing can outrun the time, even the sand grains inside an hourglass. Time is moving slowly but surely. He also talks about mankind’s inability to conceive time and accept the changes it brings. However, he also talks about the cheeky thing about the time, that it repeats. Nietzsche once said that “time is a flat circle” and therefore it is destined to repeat just as the sands in the hourglass have to return back to their place. There is a lot to unpack from just this small amount of lyrics.
For the rest of the song, the chord progression is led by the piano which has the role of the bass in the song. While this catchy progression continues and repeats (just like time itself), the keyboard pulls the mood through darker places, and with the help of some effects, this peaceful song turns into a terrifying one. It changes, like everything in the hand of the time. It ends with a single definitive chord. Even though everything moves, changes, and repeats; only one thing is certain: that it all must have an end.
3. The Knight in Red Armour (5:00)
The third and the last song on the EP falls no short of the others. It starts almost instantly without any introduction. It’s a daring move from the band’s side, but what comes after is worth the abruptness of the beginning.
The song opens with a four-chord progression played on the mellotron strings. The sound is clearly reminiscent of King Crimson’s debut album, In the Court of the Crimson King, with Ian McDonald’s use of mellotron. From the chord progression and the atmosphere, the influence is clear and feels intentional. Along with it, the tom-toms are melodic and dynamic, tearing through the melancholic mellotron sound. Vocals by Luke Johnston resemble the mellotron, where it pierces through our ears and levitates the lyrics. Decaying of some notes is kept longer which greatly enhances this effect.
The lyrics, according to Johnston, is about someone “who loses a friend in the war.” He is “very bitter about his friend’s decision to fight in the war” and the song revolves around the man’s contemplations:
Knight in Red Armour You gave it all away Have nothing left to say Your helmets cracked and broken Just like your brain Were you always this insane Bloodied stained and fractured That’s how you’ll be recalled
It is written in the form of a diatribe, where the narrator condemns his friend for his decision and his eventual death. Written in the first-person view and addressing the friend as “you”, the song eludes from the fantasy-esque lyrics of the early stages of progressive rock and establishes a more personal tone. The one-way nature of this conversation makes it easier for the narrator to jump between years and create a striking contrast between the past and the present. His memories give us foreshadowing imageries (like the boy with the toy sword) and leaves us, the listener, asking the same question: “Why?”
The interlude that comes afterward features the piano and guitar more prominently in order to balance the song. Taking advantage of this section’s calmer nature, the band shifts to more unexpected chords to retain our interest. One can even argue that the band still has the potential to try out even more intricate chords.
The second time the vocals come around, it is harder, harsher, almost feels like the music itself becomes restless. The shouting of the extended last note would remind any prog fan of In the Court of the Crimson King’s title track. The mellotron’s melodic build-up accompanied by vocal harmonies highlights the evocative quality that makes the Fat Turtles unique.
If I heard this band on the radio (who am I kidding, prog on the radio?), I would’ve subconsciously regarded them as an underrated prog band from the 70’s. Although this song concludes the short EP, we genuinely hope that this band’s career will be much longer.