New Jersey post-hardcore warrior poets Toothgrinder are no strangers to addressing mental health issues in their music. Their last EP, Schizophrenic Jubilee, also explored the darker reaches of human consciousness. With Nocturnal Masquerade, their first full-length record, they take the space afforded to them to work through mental health issues in more depth and complexity.
"Not only does he write from personal experience, but he writes from what he sees in the world, and kind of what he reads in books," drummer Wills Weller tells Exclaim!, of vocalist and lyricist Justin Matthews' process.
Inspired by a vast range of experiences, Nocturnal Masquerade is made up of a swirling kaleidoscope of identity positions and inner demons.
"You can be that schizophrenic who's having trouble realizing what thoughts are real and what thoughts are made up. And it kind of makes you crazy. You could be sad, you could be happy, you could fly. It's just your imagination. And you know, I feel like your imagination and you as a person is the scariest, most beautiful thing in the world."
This exploration of internal landscape is also what makes Nocturnal Masquerade so dreamlike, almost hallucinogenic in its intensity. Weller says that the lyrics, as well as the style and music itself, were deeply inspired by the idea of people's dream lives.
"The sexuality, the mysteriousness, the darkness, the anger, all stems from a dream. Literally just a dream, where you can be anything, and you can kind of make it go in any direction."
It's not an easy or comfortable journey, but Weller and his bandmates believe it necessary to achieve the emotional authenticity they were striving for.
"The band, the songs we write, the name of the band... I personally believe in [it], you know? And I think that's why it's dark, and that's why we're talking about these things, because I actually believe in it. We didn't buy a song and we're like 'Okay here, here's our single, and the lyrics have nothing to do with our lives or our hardships or our great times, it's just a song that someone wrote.' No, man. I believe in this song. I wrote this song by myself after I got dumped, and I didn't say I got dumped, but I was feeling dark, I was feeling sad, so that's what came out, you know? That's the emotion that we instilled in that song. And I hope that doesn't ever stop, from us."
Nocturnal Masquerade is out now on Spinefarm.