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Toothgrinder – Phantom Amour Award winner

Phantom Amour
by Anton Sanatov at 15 December 2017, 4:52 PM

“In the long history of humankind (and animal kind, too) those who learned to collaborate and improvise most effectively have prevailed.” Charles Darwin

Evolution is only natural, for in the world of perpetual change one must adapt in order to maintain relevance within the grand scheme of things. Stagnation is a precursor to failure, a notice of premature physical and philosophical demise, and thus the only logical way is to endorse the metamorphosis and become a part of the future.

Within our beloved Rock/Metal world sentiments regarding change and progression are often met with great scepticism – for once a given band have established a certain sound fans rarely embrace their favourite collective’s new directions with open arms. Yet a cellular reload is often necessary to keep the band moving forward with their music, to keep both themselves and the public interested, and on their sophomore effort, New Jersey’s TOOTHGRINDER prove that they are not ones to idle, as they leap into new genetic territories with “Phantom Amour”.

I have been aware of TOOTHGRINDER for a while now – their debut “Nocturnal Masquerade” actually found it’s way onto my desktop back at the beginning of my tenure at Metal Temple, and it immediately caught my ear as a standout piece of work. And now, almost two years later, I am once again sampling the band’s curios progressive flavours, and the taste as good as ever.

Those who are familiar with the band will note a rather significant stylistic shift on “Phantom Amour” in comparison to their debut. Yes, TOOTHGRINDER’s core elements are still there – the prominent use of acoustic guitars, the grooves, and Justin Matthews’ confident and often rapped vocals - yet format of the entire enterprise has taken on a much sleeker demeanour.  Whereas the band’s debut was an unhinged beast, “Phantom Amour” is a cool, calculated, spirit animal that prays after each kill.

Opening with the Djenty “HVY” and following it up with the standout riff monster “The Shadow” the band quickly establishes the alchemic nature of this album as they combine heavy, groove-laden, rhythmic sensibilities with expansive, ethereal choruses that bask the listener in atmospheric effects and Justin’s cleans as he delivers state altering lines like: “The shattered symbolism of a God fearing boy” (“The Shadow”). The aforementioned opener “HVY” also does a great job at establishing the mechanics behind the songwriting on this record, as the tracks blend ambient verses, riffing guitars and occasionally ferocious vocals into a smooth and catchy composite of finely crafted music - as is further seen on songs like the title track “Phantom Amour”, “Red” (which is also one of the heavier tracks on the album) and the epic closer “Facing East From A Western Shore.”

The record is indeed lighter than their debut and appears to forgo the SLIPKNOT-esque aggression of “Nocturnal Masquerade” in favour of KYLESA and BARONESS-influenced fuzzy guitars, prominent bass presence and explorative yet structured songwriting. Up-tempo tracks like “Let It Ride”, “Vagabond” “Futile” and the gritty “Pietà” roll with the stellar attitude of acts like SOCIONIC whilst reaching into mainstream Rock territories of bands like ROYAL BLOOD and KASABIAN by contriving memorable vocal melodies, funky grooves and compelling lyrics.

If you dig a little deeper you will note that “Phantom Amour” doesn’t just play, it breathes, it exists. This is not simply a record - it is a living thing, a creature with a pulse, a being of emotion. From the sludgy, raspy banter of “Paris” to the gentle, comforting caress of “Snow”, this record is a journey through the synapses of a musical organism. It truly a challenge to describe this album for it is made absorbed, through osmosis or otherwise. “Phantom Amour” is indeed something else; it is something engineered and at the same time organic, a visceral collection of exceptionally written and flawlessly produced songs that continue evolve with every listen and rewrite their own genetic code.

Overall - “Phantom Amour” is a hierophant that brings the listener to ecstasies of a new being. Only two records in TOOTHGRINDER prove that they are no ordinary band, they are the next step. By trusting their instincts and continuing to develop their sound the quintet have created a record that is not only one of this year’s best offerings but also one that is sure to push them to the top of the Metal food chain.

Songwriting: 10
Originality: 10
Memorability: 10
Production: 10

5 Star Rating

1. HVY
2. The Shadow
3. Let It Ride
4. Phantom Amour
5. Red
6. Adenium
7. Jubilee
8. Paris
9. Pietà
10. Snow
11. Vagabond
12. Futile
13. Facing East From A Western Shore
Wills Weller – Drums
Justin Matthews – Vocals
Matt Arensdorf – Bass/Vocals
Jason Goss – Guitar
Johnuel Hasney  - Guitar/Vocals
Record Label: Spinefarm Records


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