Review Summary: An immensely satisfying ball of energy that's sure to please fans of hardcore and progressive metal alike.
Imagine Slipknot. Imagine The Dillinger Escape Plan. Imagine those two bands shoved in a blender. Imagine the blender is subsequently engulfed in flames, smashed with a mallet, then once again set ablaze just for good measure.
The result of that lovely concoction is a band known as Toothgrinder.
Nocturnal Masquerade, the New Jersey quintet's first full-length release, wastes no time making its intentions known. Opener "The House (That Fear Built)" begins with a short, vaguely Middle-Eastern riff before exploding mid-measure into a relentless hardcore assault. Immediately, one may note that the song in question, along with just about every other track on the album, is presented in the traditional verse-bridge-chorus format. Although the predictable song structures do begin to feel somewhat repetitive over the record's 12 tracks, the choruses are fantastic almost across the board, making this an easily forgivable offense.
The Dillinger influence begins to rear its head on track #2, "Lace & Anchor." Boasting a fantastic groove, quite possibly the best chorus on the album, and some superbly-executed progressive, melodic guitar segments, it's a perfect example of the music Toothgrinder are capable of writing. It's an absolutely punishing track, but one that doesn't sacrifice substance in order to show off its hardcore chops.
Though undeniably impressive, Nocturnal Masquerade does fall short of perfection. "I Lie In Rain," one of the album's slower numbers, brings little to the table other than adding a bit of variety. It's not a terrible song by any stretch, but fails to live up to the heights that Toothgrinder can clearly achieve. Thankfully, "Blue," the following track, immediately assaults the listener with the album's best riff and gets things back on track without a hitch. It's largely smooth sailing from there, although the title track, another slower number, is a clear drop in quality as well. However, it's quite short and serves as little more than an interlude, and thus doesn't detract considerably from the experience as a whole.
As far as the heavier numbers are concerned, every example is excellent. If I had to pick out one dud, however, it would be "The Hour Angle," which sounds a bit too much like a Slipknot B-side. Again, though, it's by no means a poor song, and only appears lackluster due to the pristine quality of the album's other material. "Dance of Damsels" is easily the most adventurous track on the album, boasting a chorus that implements a quirky, slow rhythm with minimal instrumental accompaniment. It comes together surprisingly well, though, resulting in one of the record's finer moments.
All things considered, Nocturnal Masquerade is everything that could be expected from a debut album, plus a hell of a lot more. Somewhat weak mid-tempo numbers aside, it's an immensely satisfying ball of energy that's sure to please fans of hardcore and progressive metal alike.