Album Review: MOON TOOTH Chromaparagon
I think it's about damn time we construct and solidify the evolution of progressive metal. Most would agree that it started with Rush (although, I view them as rock), which inspired the likes of Dream Theater, Queensryche, Fates Warning, and other 80's groups that I would consider the first wave. With time, the extremes of the genre was explored in a second wave by Meshuggah, Devin Townsend, Symphony X, Opeth, Tool, and Coheed and Cambria, who all added their own unique twists of avant-garde, industrial, power, death, alternative metal and pop pizazz. This larger stylistic palette that was passed down can be shown in the exotic experimentation of Between the Buried and Me, The Faceless, and the popularized djent sub-genre as the third wave.
Whether this be the tail end of said wave or the budding of a fresh new start, bands such as Native Construct, Caligula's Horse, and now Moon Tooth provide a cohesive melting pot off all previous aspects of progressive metal. These present-day/up-and-coming acts seem to excel in a combo of both the 'what the fuck, this is weird' and 'damn, that's impressive' factors simultaneously. And now that we've stalled for a couple paragraphs on historical background and other wish wash-y contextual nonsense, it's time to get down to the nitty gritty of what this genre's new generation is all about.
Meet frontman John Carbone, guitarist Nick Lee, bassist Vincent Romanelli, and drummer Ray Marte, the men responsible for the quirky eccentricity that is titled Moon Tooth. For their debut LP, which follows 2013's Freaks EP, they establish a riveting precedent of what can be created within the wide parameters of modern progressive music.
The remarkably unusual structure of opening track, "Queen Wolf," may be the group's claim to fame. I feel compelled to mention many of the bands shown above, yet the true meat and potatoes of this piece is a bona fide one of a kind. The majority of the many melodies presented have a nostalgic classic rock and blues vibe to them, which I would declare as a first for the expansive genre. Sure, recent output from Opeth and others come close to a similar 70's-meets-modern fusion sensation, but the delivery that Moon Tooth releases has such a natural flow that the impact is sincerely profound. "Offered Blood" is defined by the dynamic vocals that alternate between spoken words and screamed verses. On the contrary, "Little Witch" and "Forgive Me Snake Ryder" are of the sludgy and non-conventional variety with more similarities to Melvins or Mastodon rather than aforementioned influences.
"Vesuvius," a two-part piece, represents the dichotomy of Moon Tooth's creative potential in regards to mid-tempo melodious attributes and sporadic heaviness. Although the last quarter of the album does have a stretched thin feel at parts, there are many noteworthy traits that support the music to elevated heights. Groovy riffs and gang chants in "Belt Squeezer" act as a curveball in the musical motion leading to one of the best track titles of the century, "Death and the Vibrant Architecture of Rebirth." At a playing time of over 10 minutes, the lengthy property of closing composition "White Stag" may feel redundant halfway through, however with the formation of such an immersive atmosphere, can be concluded as a justifiable conclusion.
A most accurate description for Chromaparagon would be a progressive rock record at the core foundation, yet the addition of the distinct characteristics within metal allow for a far more peculiar and captivating result. I do not foresee this as being the group's opus magnum, but rather a secure footing in the community/industry and a stable stepping stone to a further matured identity. The formula of a timeless act is present in the material of this debut, yet the rough-around-the-edges moments restrict Moon Tooth from coming off as fully developed. All aspects considered, the unpredictable progression and wide-ranging musicalities enable an utterly moving grand total.