On their new album, the members of Toothgrinder present a relatively dynamic picture of what heavy music can be. They maintain the frenetic nature that earned them fame while exploring other themes, including clean vocals. Part of the way the band maintains their original nature on this release is through singer Justin Matthews’ generally fast paced vocals. On “Phantom Amour,” the title track, the band even expands on this theme, including a bit of rapping in the song.
Other bands have done something similar to what the members of Toothgrinder are doing here, but the band still puts their own spin on things.
Phantom Amour is somewhat darker and has a somewhat less aggressive musical core than some of the band’s earlier work. Less energy is expended on the aggressive aspect to the music, and the darkness has that much more of an opportunity to sink in. The anger here is mostly presented in a slick package; it’s not entirely raw.
It gets truly haunting at times, like on the track called “Red” when the vocalist sings, “Who would have thought that all the beauty would be drained… from all the ones we love the most?”
There’s an occasional feeling of aggressive confidence connected to a sense of romance here. “I want to let it ride!” the vocalist sings on the song called “Let It Ride.”
The repeated pounding guitars are important to keeping this music focused on its core, as are the heavy bass lines. The guitar work is sort of the grounding force here. The album is not as “brutal” as you might expect going into this. Instead, it’s just different; the band feels like they are trying to capitalize on being different while still making emotional and artistic sense.
The soft spoken song “Jubilee” provides a sort of centering feel to the album, something that contrasts with the “centering” provided by the repeated pounding guitar tracks.
Phantom Amour might not be the most resounding, forward pushing album, but it’s original and thoughtful. The repeated contrasts between light and dark, soft and heavy create an interesting texture that feels like it is core to the band’s artistic statement of purpose.