Crux is an extremely interesting album to say the least. I have some mixed feelings about this album but before I go into detail let me introduce the band to you. Moon Tooth is a four-piece from Long Island, New York. Crux is their second full-length album, the first one being released in 2016 but Crux my first encounter with this power quartet. There are so many good things to say about this album, I’ll start by saying the mixing production is absolutely top notch. All of the instrumental tones are pleasing to the ears and technically, the musicianship of each member of the band is undeniable. The mastering, however, has quite a heavy hand and digitally, the album becomes quite ear fatiguing after a while. The dynamic range of the album also suffers due to this. Musically one of my biggest reservations about Crux is also one of its most defining qualities: it is very hard to define this music’s genre. As much as I loathe to do this, generally I think we can call it rock. I am definitely not one to get hung up on genre, if I like music I like it and I left my elitist tendencies to judge music based solely on genre back in 2006. But for some reason, I find the imperceptible nature of this music slightly estranging.
To be more specific, by the time I have finished the album I have heard heavy metal, djent, pop punk, reggae, country, rock, pop, blues, prog and jazz with influences spanning bands such as A Perfect Circle, Protest The Hero, Lionize, The Mars Volta, Coheed and Cambria, Sublime, The Aristocrats, Incubus, Periphery and even some Adam Levine (Maroon 5) type vocal outbursts. I think the reason why the imperceptible genre is slightly off-putting is that I don’t personally love some of the influences I hear coming through and even more specifically, I’m not a huge fan of the vocal style. I love the odd, post-rocky and shoegaze interludes and the pumping riffs. I love the crazy jazzy solos that shimmer in between the harmony that contrast the “balls to the wall” breakdowns but I find the extremely soulful and palatable vocal style in slight contrast to the heaviness and technicality of the music. I by no means want to slight the vocalist John Carbone, I think he is an incredibly skilled vocalist. His tone and range are most definitely the mark of a professional and practiced musician, but I just am not sure I love the combo of his clean vocals over the oddly poppy yet progressive instrumentals. That being said, I find his scream incredible and it fits perfectly over the djent breakdown we hear at the end of the title track “Crux”. Too bad that is the only time we hear him scream throughout the entire album.
With Crux I find myself really loving one part of a song then finding the next part not tickling my fancy at all. The album does grow on me the more I listen to it, but I still can’t fight the feeling that something about the album is just not my style. To not be completely disparaging, I do love the cryptic yet somehow meaningful lyrics that are reminiscent of bands such as APC or Coheed. Musically I find Nick Lee’s guitar work on this album phenomenal and even mind-blowing at times. The jazzy lead guitar I mentioned earlier we hear as a solo in the first track on the album “Trust” and it might be one of my highlights of the album. The rhythm section comprised of Ray Marte and Vincent Romanelli is also extremely tight. Throughout the entire recording the drummer and bassist lock together like a chastity belt and work to ground the quite erratic outbursts of the virtuosic guitar while also complementing the guitar when they all play together.
The album has quite a strange flow to it. It does not quite feel like the trajectory of the album is a neat curve but more an erratic line graph matching the heartbeat of a someone double dosing on cocaine and heroin simultaneously. I also find the energy of the release dips slightly towards the tail end, the songs being a bit less memorable than the ones that came before. I often found my attention drifting as the album reached its close and sometimes I even turned it off without noticing.
Crux is an undeniably unique album. Compositionally, it is exceptionally crafted and a breath of fresh air within modern rock music. Personally, I find it hard to summarise my feeling on this album. I find myself simultaneously loving and hating parts of the album and generally that feeling is happening at the same time. That being said, I cannot deny the album is original and technically outstanding. For a fan of the unusual mix of influences I mentioned above who is not averse to a poppier style of vocals, this might be in line for album of the year. For me, it is an album worth noting and something I would recommend to friends of a certain taste, but I’m not sure it is one I will be giving many repeated listens to myself.