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Toothgrinder - Nocturnal Masquerade Award winner

Toothgrinder
Nocturnal Masquerade
by Anton Sanatov at 05 May 2016, 4:32 PM

There are many schools of metal. You have your prestigious institutions, your specialty colleges and your party schools, all with their share of majors and minors. I shall not go into academic specifics here - for I fear that it will only spark an endless genre debate and divert attention from the album at hand - but I will say this; progressive metal bands are like the PhD students on campus. There is a particular aesthetic to progressive metal that carries both the weight of erudite heavy metal and the reach of skilled musicianship. On "Nocturnal Masquerade" TOOTHGRINDER prove not only that they are respectable genre alumni but also that their sound represents more than grades and degrees, it exhibits the endless power of an opened mind.

One of the first things that you notice on "Nocturnal Masquerade" is its lack of restraint. The record opens with "The House (That Fear Built)" and immediately displays a feral quality with a blistering thrashing of riffs and an unchained compositional approach. Having said that, it is not animalistic per se, but sounds more like the offering of an unhinged professor who's been indulging in his own concoctions and conversing with his intellectual demons. The songs that TOOTHGRINDER have compiled here are more than just metallic excess; they are hypotheses of fine-tuned mayhem in geometrical interrelation and chaotic theoretical exploration. Tracks like "Lace & Anchor", "Coeur d'Alene" and "Dance of Damsels" offer an abundance of heavy, occasionally "djenty", rhythmic substance, whilst at the same time compiling it into stellar song structures with a progressive perspective. The hooks are big, the guitars are fucking huge, and these factors contribute to memorable and accessible songs without sacrificing their brutal edge.

Although the album is quite cantankerous in its demeanour, there is an unmistakable intimacy to its intensity. Much of this is owed to the lyrical vocal command of singer Justin Matthews, who showcases a fascinating diversity in his performance on the record. Ranging from fast, tongue twisting spoken verses - reminiscent of SLIPKNOT's Corey Taylor - to menacing, crazed grunts and honest, heartfelt cleans. Through Matthews' vocals these songs truly assume life and acquire a legend of their own - from the slower numbers like "I Lie in Rain" to the ass-kicking "The Hour Angle".

The musicianship on “Nocturnal Masquerade” is exceptional - especially the jazz influenced drumming of Wills Weller - and the vision of the band is successfully materialised through often extensive, albeit first-rate production. In addition to that, the subtle acoustic elements and exotic melodies add a curiously malicious texture to the songs, and the multiple vocal tracks encapsulate the deranged atmosphere of a gig at an insane asylum.

Overall, "Nocturnal Masquerade" is superb. From the brooding jazzy breakdowns, to thick, pounding grooves, this album is a gem. Through a combination of intelligible songs and pedigree metal, TOOTHGRINDER have a created a stylish and extraordinary record that is suitable for untamed students and manic professors alike.

Songwriting: 10
Originality: 8
Memorability: 9
Production: 9

4 Star Rating

Tracklist:
  1. The House (That Fear Built)
  2. Lace & Anchor
  3. Coeur d'Alene
  4. I Lie In Rain
  5. Blue
  6. The Hour Angle
  7. Dance of Damsels
  8. Diamonds For Gold
  9. Nocturnal Masquerade
  10. Dejection/Despondency
  11. Schizophrenic Jubilee
  12. Waltz Of Madmen
Lineup:
Justin Matthews – Vocals
Jason Goss – Guitar
Matt Arensdorf – Bass/Vocals
Wills Weller – Drums
Record Label: Spinefarm Records
     


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Edited 24 September 2021
 

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