Crux by Moon ToothRelease date: March 29, 2019
Label: Modern Static Records
Since reviewing it for another site a couple of years ago, I’ve spent a lot of time listening to Moon Tooth’s Chromoparagon. The New York quartet’s full-length debut has been a regular go-to of mine, and I foresee their sophomore effort, Crux being exactly the same. An uplifting fusion of math metal, blues, and modern rock that is awash with (Living) colour, and much more focussed than the Moon Tooth’s debut, Crux is fuelled by their boundless enthusiasm and energy.
As with Chromoparagon before it (and their intervening cover of Hendrix’s ‘Manic Depression’), Crux is technically brilliant, with all musicians delivering intricate and meticulously played parts. There are plenty flurries and licks on Crux for the more musically minded to pick apart, but at no point do Moon Tooth get lost in a Gordian knot of noodling. A testament to this, Nick Lee’s skilful solos actually serve an emotional and structural purpose within songs such as ‘Motionless In Sky’ rather than just being a lesson in guitar-wizardry. The jazz-influenced rhythm section of drummer Ray Marté and Vincent Romanelli on bass also display an outstanding aptitude, highlighted by the driving bass and pacy kick-drum of ‘Thumb Spike’.
John Carbrone’s vocals are exceptional, like a curious mix of Corey Glover’s potency, Brandon Boyd’s crooning and Daryl Palumbo’s vulnerability, but unique in his phrasing and emphases. The vocalist oozes charisma and his elegiac delivery ranges from powerful to assailable, offering sufficient opportunities for sing-a-long choruses, complimenting the catchy, rhythmic riffing of Nick Lee’s guitar. There’s even a neat little callback to Chromoparagon by Carbrone midway through Crux on the ‘Rhythm & Roar’: “Again, and again, and again!”. Similarly to Living Colour, at times, Moon Tooth and specifically Carbrone utilise their expressive energy to direct their anger a variety of issues, for example being stuck in a rut on ‘Awe At All Angles’, and they also turn their ire towards Trump on one of the highlights of Crux, the antifascist call-to-arms of ‘Musketeers’.
With an increase in production value from Chromoparagon, work on pre-production was carried out by Machine and Mark Morton (of Lamb of God) with Ray Marté handling everything else, Moon Tooth have beefed up their dynamic, sprightly sound without overcomplicating things. The inclusion of a saxophone on ‘Trust’ is an example of how this improved production serves to increase the vigour of Moon Tooth. As do the simple and effective touches of vocal effects and layering that accentuate Carbrone’s performance, like adding a short echo to the lines closing with “…echo” on the title track. Lee’s guitar sounds crisp and vivid on the likes of the gentle, intimate sections of ‘Through Ash’ and ‘Motionless In Sky’, and heavy as hell on ‘Trust’ and penultimate track ‘Crux’. The midpoint switch in the title track from the soft balladry of the first half to the doom-laden crunch of the second is savage, and the latter half is given further bite by the coarse screaming of Lee.
There were a few days over the past few weeks that upon arriving home from a particularly tough time at work that I would reach for Crux on a dog walk and gain an instant lift – Moon Tooth’s stirring energy and optimism are incredibly infectious. Densely packed and busy sounding but never overdone, Crux is an inspiring and uplifting distillation of modern rock. If nothing else, I just really, really enjoy listening to this delightful album, and that’s all that matters right?