While Toothgrinder’s debut LP Nocturnal Masquerade was a hell of a banger, their sophomore follow up, Phantom Amour, makes for an immense jump forward in the band’s musicianship. It’s pretty tough to put a label on Toothgrinder’s material this time around, for the real gift of the music is just how truly diverse it spreads itself across each song. The variety of sounds and styles at play are what make the band one of the most progressive metal acts around today.
Where the previous record leaned much more towards metalcore, Phantom Amour offers an alternative blend of metal, never settling for one straight forward energy. At times the band will drop in tones of ambient vibes, adding multiple shades of emotion to their work. Opening track “HVY” begins with a progression of gritty guitar notes, before drastically shifting the tone into this spacey haze of instrumentation. Heavier moments appear throughout the song, but the melancholy atmosphere takes over the majority of the material, and brings in a delicate and welcoming introduction to the album. “The Shadow” kicks things off with a higher energy, the vocals screaming with more aggression, the guitar rhythm riding away with vibrancy. The song drops back into that melancholy aura, but there is more of a balance between the two styles, both feeding into the other. The track also represents the band’s use of unique stories and themes within the album, pulling inspiration from the philosophy of Carl Jung.
“Red” is one of the more explosive tracks on the album, bursting away immediately with clashing drums. This hectic energy continues in the background as the vocals creep in with a ghostly presence, the song taking on a political approach with lines such as, “Our President has fucked intentions”. “Jubilee” gives us a taste of some banjo playing, the composition as a whole providing this beautiful elegance through the combination of instrumentals and vocals. The material comes with a great love song presentation, the minimal elements of the work coming together to make for a radiant wonder.
Frontman Justin Matthews has shared how he translates Phantom Amour into ‘Ghost Love’, and how the record includes a lot of dark romance. These ideas come through the composition thanks to the band’s terrific balance and use of song structure, never diving in too deep into the heavier components, or the softer elements. “Paris” is an excellent example of how these two styles work so well together, for throughout the entire runtime of the track, the instrumentals and vocals shift in tone and intensity, offering a sincerely pure blend of top notch musicianship. From moments of clashing drums and rich electric guitar riffs, to somber notation and calming vocalization, the song makes for a beautiful haunting presence. “Snow” is one of the band’s best moments in displaying how their use of minimalism can create such immense feelings. The song exudes these heartbreaking waves of emotion, painting this image of one standing alone in a field at night while the snow falls.
Phantom Amour is truly a wondrous experience in emotion. The band has made a huge step forward in their artistry, and has crafted a sincerely powerful work of music. By adding the more minimal softer elements to their music, their heavier moments make more of a presence, with both catering to the other. For a second full-length LP, Toothgrinder have proven their masterful ability in creating music that is ethereal and enchanting.