A few months ago I stumbled onto an album called Public Cemetery Party, by a band called Exemption. I hadn’t heard of these guys before (yeah, I live under a fucking rock), but I learned that they had been around for almost 9 years before disbanding in 2012. This was news I didn’t take so well, since by the time I read to the end of their bio, the album had been blowing my mind for at least a minute and a half. And it continued to do so for the duration. I still listen to it all the time, because it’s incredible.
In the way of a disclaimer, I’d like it to be known that I love dark and dismal metal, music that can’t climb out of Hell, or that won’t even bother trying. But the truth is, I often find myself yearning for brightness. And I don’t really mean brightness strictly in terms of sonic quality. It’s a hard qualification to justify, but I guess a good (if non-metal) example would be Nevermind vs. In Utero, bright vs. not bright. I love both albums, but there’s something really special about the way that Nevermind just overflows with creativity, and even more importantly, shows a band that’s happy to be creating. Sure, there’s plenty of loathing and torment in the lyrics, but you can tell that the band is actually enjoying the process of letting it out. It would be hard to make the same claim of In Utero. Of course, no one knew this as well as Kurt Cobain, who starts the latter album off by confessing that “teenage angst has paid off well, now I’m bored and old.”
But I digress. Who knows if these guys even like Nirvana. The point is, Public Cemetery Party scratched a serious itch for me, by betraying some kind of self-conscious restriction that heavy music often places on itself. Some of my favorite metal bands stick themselves deep down in a bog of tar for entire albums, and I can really dig that, but Exemption was a band that surprised you every 5 seconds, and this, their final album, astonished and impressed me at more moments than I could count. It could be heavy as hell, and it showcased some truly impeccable musicianship, but what really made it stand out was how dauntlessly it let itself enjoy the freedom of unbridled creativity. These are all very vague descriptions so just go here and download the goddam thing for free. You’ll know what I mean.
But I digress. Again. The REAL point is that two of the founding members of Exemption, guitarist Nick Lee and drummer Ray Marte, went on to form Moon Tooth. And Moon Tooth is fucking awesome too, so all is well in the world.
Their debut EP is called Freaks, and it came out way, way back in the summer of 2013. So again, I’m a little late to the party, but I’m so happy that this kind of music is coming out of New York that I’m going to talk about it anyway. In a nutshell, Moon Tooth takes all the stunning virtuosity and labyrinthine songwriting of Exemption, but gives it more of an edge, and a little less glitter. In my Ceramics review I explained why I hesitate to compare bands to other bands, but there’s no way I can avoid mentioning how quickly I was reminded of the quirky grandiosity of Faith No More, and the prodigious (but still more metal than prog) technicality of Mastodon. And I will apologize if I’m redundant, because I’m just about positive they’ve gotten these comparisons before. But I hope Moon Tooth will at least be a bit flattered to be compared to a couple of bands who, most importantly, flush generic boundaries down the toilet every chance they get, without ever compromising how awesome their music is. And the real kicker is that it’s been a long time since either of those bands have made music that’s as good as this EP.
All 4 songs on this EP are exceptional, but my favorite is “Storm Pill”. The intro somehow manages to be frantic and fragmented while grooving heavy at the same time, and the verse features doubled tracked clean and screamy vocals, an old trick from the Exemption days of yore. And the chorus, oh that fucking chorus. It hits me so hard every time. You will be absolutely floored to hear what these guys can do in 3 minutes. This band has chops for days, and they make music from fucking Neptune.