Toothgrinder – Nocturnal Masquerade (Spinefarm)Tuesday, 26th January 2016
Listening to last year’s Schizophrenic Jubilee made it seem like Toothgrinder had some serious potential. Techy and spastic hardcore with crazed vocals and expansive guitar riffs that seemed to look towards bands like Dillinger Escape Plan and Between the Buried and Me for inspiration. Nocturnal Masquerade is the band’s newest effort, and the only way to describe the shift in tone is “head-scratching.”
The biggest (and most painful) inclusion to the Toothgrinder sound is that of clean vocals. While Schizophrenic Jubilee wasn’t void of them, these cleans permeate nearly every track and reek of nu-metal and 2000’s rock. Just listen to “I Lie in Rain,” which stays in ballad-esque territory until just about the last 20 seconds of play. Even some of the frenzied screams have seemingly been replaced by barked Corey Taylor-isms and stripped of some of the crazy. What makes it worse is that the band does have the capability to provide the punishment that they provided last year. For example, the album starts off just fine with “The House (That Fear Built)” almost building to Carnal Forge levels of intensity in its thrashy-ness, but then it veers off into nu-metal territory with spoken word vocals and later a full-blown clean vocal chorus (though admittedly with some screams in the background). “The Hour Angle” and “Blue” also contains their fair share of groovy/djenty riffs (and some nice leadwork), but the nu-metal tropes and clean vocal breaks keep things from being strong from start to finish.
Hopefully this flirtation with clean vocals and melodies is something that the band can find more balance with in future offerings. They have a knack for chaos, and to only deliver chaos is unbalanced, but adding too much diversity and rock-ish elements really keep Nocturnal Masquerade from being more of a showstopper.