Published Oct 09, 2019Toothgrinder think they've have figured out what modern metal audiences want: albums like I AM, a nostalgia-heavy nu metalcore throwback with just enough new ideas to not be called a rehash. There's a little djent, a lot of melody, a few "whoa-oh's" and chart-ready production that screams "radio hit." It's like every SiriusXM metal song got smashed in a meat grinder and came out sounding like Shinedown meets Bring Me the Horizon.
Phantom Amour was one of the most underrated records of 2017. Though well-received, it didn't translate into superstardom. I AM dials back the risk and goes for smooth pop sheen in place of headbanging. Tracks like "My Favorite Hurt" (strong contender for the most angsty song title of all time) are all well and good, but when they start to make up the bulk of the album, some hard questions must be asked.
What happened to the bangers? The groove metal riffs that defined the last record? When they finally do kick in, on "Too Soft for the Scene, Too Mean for the Green," it's after we've been forced to listen to pubescent pabulum like "No Surrender in the House of Leaves" and "ShiVer." (What is with these early 2000s song titles?) Even the nu metal influence sounds more like Coal Chamber and less like Korn this time around.
For all the overall angst on I AM, the title track stands out as a moment of genuine emotion. Confessing to his substance abuse issues, singer Justin Matthews vows to "make peace with all [he is]." To the backdrop of a snappy djent riff, Toothgrinder finally serve up a track worthy of inclusion on that last monster record. It's just a shame that so much of the rest sounds not like a band experimenting, but a band trying to grasp success by any means necessary, even by selling out. (Spinefarm)