Toothgrinder. As you can imagine, this is not your average top 40 artist. Straight away, the name breathes confidence in finding a vicious, hard-hitting album, and they do not disappoint.
The four-piece from Asbury Park, New Jersey hold ‘Nocturnal Masquerade’ in the palm of their hands, marking their debut release through Spinefarm Records. Having toured with The Faceless and After The Burial in America in December, they’re in the midst of a formative period behind the amps.
‘Nocturnal Masquerade’ delivers influences from the progressive metal world and the straight-to-the-point aggressive side of the alternative realm. Whilst being labelled as prog Toothgrinder also throw in some aggressive punk and, dare I say it, some nu-metal as well with some down tuned guitar sounds and frequent whispers.
Opener ‘The House (That Fear Built)’ wastes no time in informing you the album’s overall tempo, with a Middle Eastern guitar vibe closely followed by vivid rage. Their musicianship is prevalent throughout, as sticksman Wills Meller has done a stellar job delivering fine grooves and a technique made for easy listening. Matt Arsendorf’s aggressive vocal style, particularly amidst ‘Lace & Anchor’, proves an impressive focal element despite showing signs of monotony in places. Keen to showcase everything from blackened, bloody screams to mellow guitar sections that are almost epic, this second track really brings together their many and varied elements.
This effort also contains some frequent diversions to clean vocals and, as much I’m a fan of the contrast for the sake of diversity, the cleans are perhaps better suited in some places than others – after all, less is more. ‘Blue’, for example, is a great example of the blend between harsh and clean and also the combination of slow grooves and pacey riffs. Although it’s not always perfect, the transition from aggressive pace to soft crawling flows very well overall and appears well executed.
‘Nocturnal Masquerade’ is a fine effort, including the song itself which is my personal highlight and delivers a slow, heavy atmospheric avalanche unto the listener. Elements like this could help Toothgrinder ambush the metal scene at this rate, and it’ll definitely be interesting to see what they can deliver in a live capacity. Toothgrinder finish their journey with a ballad-esque number entitled ‘Waltz of Madmen’, containing frequent dark whispers and haunting melodies, bordering on some expert levels of heavy doom which, for me, is a great ending to a great album.
‘Nocturnal Masquerade’ by Toothgrinder is released on 29th January on Spinefarm Records.
Words by Andrew May.