This is one of those albums that has long since been on my list of debut albums to watch out for—ever since I realised I was hitting repeat on the video for their video of “Storm Pill” up on YouTube for the fourth time in a row and figured it was about time to order the T-shirt too—and one I was more than a little apprehensive about approaching. Constantly trying to rein in expectations and stop them getting too high, my inner child can’t help but bounce in anticipation, a little enamoured by this artist that has touched on something that genuinely feels different and unique without ever coming across as though they were trying too hard. Technical shredding balances out with Ambient melodies; hard hitting Rock ‘n’ Roll chorus lines clash gloriously with an unexpectedly soulful croon; it crunches and grinds, swoons and serenades, and slinks and slams.
The opening track, “Queen Wolf,” couples hard hitting Dillinger Escape Plan-esque passages with a gentle crooning that leaves echoes of Coheed of Cambria. “Little Witch” has more than a touch of Punky Garage Rock about it, reminding me of something The Living End or Foo Fighters might have put out early in their careers. “Chroma” with its choral harmonies and bright, jangly, meandering guitar lines sounds like something Mastodon might release. To call it diverse would be an understatement. Where most debut albums would focus on trying to get one style right, Moon Tooth throw caution to the wind and treat this album like a musical playground, dipping in and out of styles left and right like a kid in a candy store with little concern for how upset it might make their stomachs at the end. They aren’t content to merely make solid Prog Rock, they want to be the best at everything, and for the most part it’s hard not to admit they do a damn good job of it.
The problem is, I’m never really sold on it all as an album. They chop and change styles so often that it comes across as a compilation of tracks rather than anything with a greater sense of cohesion. It’s exhausting to listen to in a single sitting because each track feels like a new artist unto itself, and it gives little allusion to where the ‘core sound’ of Moon Tooth truly lies. In a way, the ten minute closer flowing gently in an ethereal Mars Volta-inspired manner is actually one of the stronger tracks presented here, simply because it feels like a single consolidated entity; something they otherwise seem to want to avoid. “Vesuvius”, for example, is split into two parts which are both similar in style and flow effortlessly into one another, and I can’t for the life of me figure out why it was ever split in the first place. Each track taken individually comes with a plethora of merits, but as an album—as a single entity—it never really comes together.
And yet, I have to constantly remind myself that this is still a debut, and not an album from seasoned Prog veterans with two decades of experience already under their belts. It’s an exciting album to listen to simply because the musicians themselves always sound excited. It elicits the same reaction as the look a child gives in all those Disneyland brochures; that wide-eyed elation at all the well crafted ideas lurking around every corner. There’s a youthful exuberance that simply calling it ambitious doesn’t begin to describe; a sense of genuine passion from the guitarist, Nick Lee, and vocalist, John Carbone, who both seem to have an endless bag of tricks to draw from. Where most artists struggle to create a unique identity, Moon Tooth have crafted half a dozen, and all that’s left now is to see how they all come together as one.
Release date: 04-04-2016
Reviewer: Thomas Bawden