Review Summary: Have you ever had a record hit you so hard in the face you couldn't abstain from head dismemberment. Moon Tooth's debut accomplishes just this, and is ready to melt faces and go places.
I first encountered Moon Tooth's full presence in my hometown on their first tour back in May. I was absolutely floored. From right out of the gate, a devastating rhythm that nearly crumbled the surrounding walls and shattered the expectations of anyone involved. The main thing that drew me in was one of the most unique stage presences, mostly due to the vivacity of all four members. For example, at first I thought the vocalist was having a serious medical seizure, but by the opening vocal line he arose from the dead, vigorously climbing up the mic stand to come in on cue. Of corse the rest of the band follows his lead of insanity (guitarist catapulting off the bassist's back, drummer playing while running around the kit). Honestly it was one of, if not the absolute most intense live performances I've seen in my modest 8 years of attending shows. The core sound of their music seemed partially vague though, mainly due to softly mixed vocals and the amount to keep up with. Or in other words it was just an immense amount to absorb for just one performance. Impatiently I waited until finally "FREAKS" EP was released in late July, and therefore proved that they can capture this live intensity on record.
Upon first encounter it is apparent that "FREAKS" is bursting at the seams with vitality and energy, and never slows down for the entire ride. listening to the album opener "Ebb/Flow", it comes crashing in with calamitous grooving, and franticly beating drums almost reminiscent of Mastodon. All immediately turns direction though. John Carbone slides in with his sweet yet soulful croon changing the entire mood of the song, setting an altercation between beauty and chaos that comes together in near perfect unity. This song continues with a massively harmonious chorus that hooks into your skin, deep, until it becomes infectious. Once hooked, the climax comes burying one under walls of the bombarding guitars, both heavily churning alongside the massive bass (courtesy of Vincent Romanelli, ex Painted In Exile), and accompanying numerous layers of ambient leads that wither out to an ethereal allure. All of this is really intertwines between guitarist Nick Lee and drummer Ray Marte's extraordinary chemistry. Both members of the band Exemption for 10 years, they mesh seamlessly in every moment, and really seemed to have hit their stride this time.
The best part about all the tracks that follow is that none of them even come close to sounding the same, but all bear a distinctive resemblance. "Goon" tears straight through with a turbulent, bluesy, rock fueled drive, meanwhile imposing dark passages that really add spark to its gloomy nature. This especially shows in the lyrical content, depicting a spiteful man descend to madness of his own shame. While "Storm Pill" offers a fast thrashy affair that wastes no time turning the velocity up to 11. Constantly overwhelming senses with fast breakneck riffs and impressive spastic drumming, with a brain melting synopsis. But most of all "Silver Gallows" turns out to be the most dynamic and enticing on the record. It takes a page out of the book of Baroness in design, but still has a much more soulful and passionate piquancy than one would expect. It is easily the most catchy and melodic of all, but leaves a haunting sensation by painting the image of death by hanging from the silver noose. Only the vibe makes this seem so tempting. Also the only song that showcases the talent of guitar talent of aforementioned Nick Lee, tearing through a solo by mindbending bends, and even more soulful shredding. I really cant stress enough how much soul and feeling just oozes from the closer, it is very apparent that the band draws influence from Marvin Gaye, James Brown, and other contemporaries.
Yet of course none of this would matter if the production didn't fit, and another remarkable fact is that the drummer Ray produced the record himself. It is totally flawless in sound and execution alike, but can be addled at times. The vocals can sit on top to much, or the bass isn't cutting through enough. But the thing that makes it especially great is the purity, and how organic it sounds. The guitars are mammoth but raw, the drums have depth but transparent qualities. And most of all, the vocals seem to have little to no processing. This makes the largely harmonious sections sound polished, and the screams even grittier (every member performs vocals on this by the way). A truly memorable production for a bands debut.
The only gripe I may have is that there is not enough material here. Clocking in at just over 15 minutes, it feels almost to abrupt to end right there. Even 2 more three minute songs would have been an optimal length for this EP. But the thing to take away is that it still has the listener aching for more. Never would I have guessed a band in about a year of existence already sounds this focused, mature, and dynamic. They have been touring nonstop since December of 2012 and clearly have no plans of stopping anytime soon. This band is ascending quickly so catch them in a city near you before they reach colossal heights, trust me they are more intense to experience on a personal level.