Toothgrinder – Phantom Amour (Spinefarm)Sunday, 12th November 2017
Toothgrinder’s last effort, Nocturnal Masquerade, seemed to be a band in transition. After the frenzied Schizophrenic Jubilee, the introduction of more melody and clean vocals made for a polarizing listen. While Phantom Amour doesn’t really solve all the problems of Nocturnal, the band feels more comfortable in their skin as they reach towards the next phase of their evolution.
Much akin to the perpetually evolving acts like The Contortionist, Toothgrinder take elements of their previous material and move into new directions each time. Phantom Amour is definitely less aggressive than any of their output to date, but seems like a natural progression from their last album. It makes for a less jarring transition as well, and for their part, the melodic sense they dove into last time seems more refined and enhanced this time. Check out the double-whammy of “Adenium” and “Jubilee,” to see how much more melodic they have become. The former tosses some heavy riffs and shouts into the mix with ease, and seems a good direction for the band to continue to move into. An effective balance of heavy and melodic, while keeping things progressive and interesting on the musical end. Later on, “Paris” grasps these same feelings. On the groovier side, “Let it Ride” is quite playful and serves as another effective pathway for the band to explore. “Jubilee,” however, feels totally like a modern rock track. One could also live without the cringe-inducing rap-rock delivery of some of the vocals on the title track and “Futile.” It seems for every potential positive pathway that the band could take, there’s one that could pull them into more rock-based blandness.
While Phantom Amour still seems like the band hasn’t quite found their footing, there’s a more confident and playful feel to the melodic elements. Only time will tell where Toothgrinder will take their sound next, but in their ability to evolve each time around, it’ll be worth an investigation, if only to see what they’ve done.