The first time I heard the name Toothgrinder, I was instantly thrown back to San Francisco’s now defunct metal juggernauts Animosity and their 2007 song of the same name. I loved Animosity’s brand of metal, so I secretly hoped that this New Jersey five piece would live up to the hype created by its name alone. And my God, they did!
Nocturnal Masquerade, being their first full-length record released via Spinefarm Records (home of metal powerhouses like Children of Bodom, Kalmah, Godsmack, etc.) knocked my socks off from the get-go. Having never heard any of their material before, I was curious about what type of progressive metal they would pursue, and I was in for a pleasant surprise. Toothgrinder has managed to perfect their brand of mid-paced savagery. Guitarists Jason Goss and Matt Mielke seamlessly weave in and out of heavy chuggy sections, clean arrangements, technical riffs, and even the occasional riff or two which would be perfectly at home in a Hardcore or even a Nu-Metal band. Matt Arensdorf holds down the low register with solid bass lines that don’t blindly mimic the guitar riffs but add a new flavor and heaviness to their songwriting. Drummer Wills Weller is a solid man to have behind the kit and knows how to write drum sections that could get a pit going. Toothgrinder seems to be avid fans of The Dillinger Escape Plan and their music is very reminiscent of a similar style.
Solid musicianship aside, it is vocalist Justin Matthews that truly makes Toothgrinder the band to keep an ear out for. He decided that sticking to one pitch and timber just doesn’t cut it anymore, and threw in a bunch of hardcore shouts, death metal growls, nu metal barks, melodic sung passages, soaring screams, and math metal shrieks instead. One can only imagine that he holds people like Greg Puciato and Mike Patton in high regard, as that is plain to see. Guest spot vocals performed by Spencer Sotelo of Periphery fame on ‘Diamonds for Gold’ seem to perfectly align with the picture that this band wanted to paint.
Production on Nocturnal Masquerade is stellar, coming as no surprise coming from renowned engineer Taylor Larson; the guitars sound gritty yet not muddy, and all of the instruments and vocals had their space to breathe. It is unfortunately not a perfect release though. Most of my complaints arise from the fact that variety is both their greatest strength but also proved to be a failing with Nocturnal Masquerade. Some of the curveballs in their songs seem more forced than others. Few of the melodic passages tend to drag on a little longer than they needed to, and with a name like Toothgrinder, a listener would have expected faster-paced aggressive music. That being said, Nocturnal Masquerade still stands its ground to be a solid release. I for one, am looking forward to see what Tooth these guys choose to Grind next!
Top Tracks: The House (that fear Built), Schizophrenic Jubilee.