THE PROGRESSIVE TRACKS SHOW #544 (“The Truth About Rats, Chocolate, and Life’s Journey”) Life is a mish-mash of sounds, images, and experiences. So is this show. PLAYLIST Poppy Roscoe – “Desert Rats” from Poppy Roscoe in: Sea Fortune and the Desert Rats on Toad Wart Records (2023) [01:35] Earthside – “But What If We’re Wrong?” […]
The Mystical Hot Chocolate Endeavors
Incorrigible oddballs always find their way to prog in the end. For the first part of his musical career, multi-instrumentalist Craig Schmuhl was guitarist and frontman with a death metal band called Hate Storm Annihilation. Today, he releases music as The Mystical Hot Chocolate Endeavors. The project’s latest release, //A Clock Without A Craftsman//, is an extraordinary 98-minute journey through modern prog, post-rock, shoegaze and metal: solid proof that Schmuhl as found his true calling.
“The prog thing didn’t really come around until I was at college,” he says. “I was just writing long songs, and a friend said, ‘Oh, you mean like prog rock?’ What the hell is prog rock, you know? [Laughs] I was just writing songs the way I do, but then he turned me onto Genesis and King Crimson and Yes and I went through the whole gamut, and discovered more modern bands like Porcupine Tree, Riverside and [The] Pineapple Thief. I’m like a musical sponge. I just want to take in as much as I can.”
The follow-up to the Endeavors’ first album, 2020’s //A Humanistic Perspective//, //A Clock Without A Craftsman// somehow manages to justify its undeniably prog-friendly girth. Through several towering epics /and/ a smattering of shorter, more accessible pieces, it demonstrates the breadth of Schmuhl’s musical vision, and the scale of his ambition.
“I’d always wanted to do something super big, super grandiose,” he states. “I’m a huge [Smashing] Pumpkins fan, and //Mellon Collie And The Infinite Sadness// is one of my favourite albums. I love big records, so I was expecting a long album, but I wasn’t expecting it to be /this/ long! Listening to it all the way through is certainly doable, but maybe you can listen to it like a miniseries… A little today, some more tomorrow. Because it /is/ a long record.”
In musical terms, The Mystical Hot Chocolate Endeavors seem to have found a previously untouched sweet spot between many of modern prog’s most cherished sounds and styles. As a result, the band’s name makes a certain sort of skewed, psychedelic sense. Possibly.
“It was actually a name I came up with in high school. I was just at home practising guitar or whatever, and I was thinking about different names and The Mystical Hot Chocolate Endeavors just came to me, and I stored it in a phone note forever, just waiting for the right thing to come about. What does it mean? You have a band that doesn’t know exactly what it is, and a name that doesn’t know exactly what it means, and you put them together. That’s the deal.”
Does Schmuhl drink a lot of hot chocolate?
“I don’t! [Laughs] That being said, I do work in a coffee shop called Ten Drops Coffee [in Plainfield, Illinois], and I have a signature hot chocolate drink there, called the Mystical Hot Chocolate Endeavor.”
As their newly released colossus is slowly digested, The Mystical Hot Chocolate Endeavors are already working on a follow-up. Schmuhl has already written material for “the next few” albums, and admits that discovering the prog path has facilitated a dizzying surge of creativity.
“Oh yeah, I am truly enjoying this. This past winter we went and recorded drums for the next full-length album. I’ll do all, the guitars, bass, keyboards and vocals here in my home studio. I have a great set-up here, and it allows me to be an isolated weirdo and do all the things I want to do. I want to keep people guessing with this music!”
LINE-UP: Craig Schmuhl (vocals/guitar), William Candelario (drums), Trevor Martin (guitar/keyboards), Tyler Novak (bass)
SOUNDS LIKE: Melancholy songcraft rendered in every colour of the post-prog rainbow
CURRENT RELEASE: //A Clock Without A Craftsman// is out now via Massacre Records
— Dom LawsonFrom "Limelight - The Mystical Hot Chocolate Endeavors" Prog Issue 144 Reprinted with permission.