Moon Tooth came swinging out of the gate in 2016 with their debut full-length Chromaparagon. It presents the listener with a variety of different musical styles that are as colorful as the album title itself. One moment you’re rocking out to stoner with mild-psych touches, the next you’re headbanging to progressive metal, there’s even a devilish fusion of these with blues at one point! It’s a record with a raw, in-your-face energy that is nearly impossible to shake. Now, three years later, they have a brand new full length entitled Crux for us to absorb. This record has the tough task of proving that what came before it was merely the tip of the iceberg for Moon Tooth.
Just as the Chromaparagon before it, Crux blows the door down with a heavy hitting opener. “Trust” wastes no time in letting you know that the band is just as hungry as ever for the listeners’ ear. The first three minutes of the track are rocket propelled fodder for overly-violent-chair-moshing, with the last minute exploding into an uplifting-jam of saxophone and guitar. At the last moment it’s brought back down to earth with guitar and bass chugs from Nick Lee and Vincent Romanelli that have risen from the muck to reclaim what belongs to them: your soul. From this alone you can tell that what was happening on their debut album was no fluke or stroke of luck, what they have is the real deal.
While Moon Tooth have an unrelenting energy on record, there are also contemplative moments on Crux that are quite stunning. “Through Ash” is a stellar example of this as it starts from a more intimate viewpoint musically, then continues to expand and grow in a way that incorporates the band’s aforementioned energy. There’s a section in the middle of the song where vocalist John Carbone is passionately singing over speedy drum work by Ray Marté that acts as a perfect meeting point between the two moods that doesn’t lean more one way or the other. By the end of it you’ve built all the way to a climax that deescalates to the intimacy you began with. It’s moving in a way that sits with you long after the song ends.
Those examples are within the first three songs of the album and there’s plenty more where that came from. “Musketeers” is a fantastic, non-stop banger that takes on the ilk of the Trump administration. “Motionless in Sky” is an emotive track similar to “Through Ash” that ends with a guitar solo so tasteful it’ll bring a single tear to your eye. “Thumb Spike” is a statement of love that alternates between gentle crooning and thrashing speed in milliseconds. “Awe at All Angles” is an uplifting ball of energy that is full to the brim of piss and vinegar.
The one two punch of the final tracks, “Crux” and “Raise a Light” are Crux‘s album’s equivalent of Chromaparagon‘s nearly eleven minute closer, “White Stag”. “Crux” moves very purposefully and with great grace, with an atmosphere that builds and swirls continuously until, suddenly, the bottom falls out. The guitars get dark and heavy, the drums thunder behind them and finally the screaming comes in. It’s as if the first half just couldn’t contain itself any longer and had to reveal its true form. Then, comes “Raise a Light”.
“Raise a Light” opens with organs and guitar that sounds slightly off, but not enough to negate the positive power they exude. Every step the music takes just keeps bringing you higher and higher. Eventually, we are left with echoing guitar building the last few steps that will bring us to the top. It then begins to fade out into the ethereal with light white-noise beneath sustained organ notes. They shimmer and disappear, with the only trace left of them being the feeling of beautiful finality inside the listener.
To say that Moon Tooth outdid themselves with Crux is an understatement. They managed to deepen their sound while simultaneously condensing it and making it more accessible. It’s easy to see people who think that “rock n’ roll” died long ago listening to this and feeling rejuvenated. It’s also easy see young listeners looking for the next big thing on the cutting edge listening to this and feeling energized by the creativity and talent of their generation of musicians. With Crux, Moon Tooth took the crux of following up their excellent debut album and made it look like a no-brainer.
. . .
Moon Tooth’s Crux release March 29th independently via the band themselves and can be preordered digitally/physically at their Bandcamp linked above.