Maria Mar’s Local Radar: Toothgrinder, Old Nick & Killed The Fixtion

What’s up locals? Maria Mar here. We are back with another week of Local Radar, doing everything in my power to open your eyes to some killer bands in the New Jersey music scene. So far, so great. We have covered everything from pop, punk, hardcore, and more. Keeping it fresh and eclectic is what we do! I’ve been seeing so many locals getting added to national bills and headlining club shows, and it’s extremely refreshing and rewarding. If you aren’t making friends with other bands in your town, you should probably start. A music scene is based on a bunch of groups that help drive interest in local music. I know meeting people can be hard, but you’ve got one solid commonality when making friends with other bands: the love of music.

First and foremost, let’s keep it metal with a band called Toothgrinder. The band consists of Justin Matthews on vocals, Wills Weller on drums, Jason Goss on guitar, Matt Mielke on guitar, and Matt Arensdorf on bass. Just a brief history on these guys, in their own words; “Toothgrinder was created in 2008 by a group of local young kids wanting to hit the music scene with something heavier, broader and more inventive than had been previously done by each musician in the past.” Toothgrinder reside in Asbury Park and have a few Asbury Park music awards under their belts, which are placed right in their practice room (where I’m sure they serve as motivation for more). They’re as tight as a subway in rush hour. Somehow, Toothgrinder manages to set itself apart from the other bands in the genre. Perhaps their euphonious riffs are just better than all other bands of the genre and the way they structure their songs can’t be beaten. To emphasize on this a little deeper, some of their tracks are over 20 minutes long. Weird and strung out you ask? Not in the slightest. Their live set is what made me a fan, for there’s all the usual chaos you’d expect from a hardcore show but compacted into a smaller space. This is how they like it—intimate and heavy. If you aren’t numb when their set ends, you aren’t listening to it loud enough. Take out your earplugs. The breakdowns this band uses work because they know where to put them in the song. Justin is an endearing frontman and he holds the stage and slips between clean vocals and screams effortlessly. Their first EP, Turning Of The Tides, is full of catchy hooks, violent breakdowns, soothing screams, and some really overwhelming guitar riffs. Production wise, this EP sounds awesome. Matt’s basslines are very protuberant, the drumming is nice and loud, and the cymbals don’t wash out the mix like some other albums in the same genre. In fact, Wills is in a category all of his own. The second you press play, you want to start banging your head and scream the lyrics (that’s what I did). In a world of nonspecific metalcore, this is the type of album the genre needs. The boys are working on a full-length slated to be out in the fall. Check these guys out, and put your petal to the metal.

Next, let us do a complete 180 here. I recently came across a band called Old Nick. The quintet has released a second EP, I’ve Seen Colors, and are currently working on a full-length. Members Jay Sakong (guitar/vocals), Dan Zaleski (bass), Ryan Vargas (drums) and Seamus O’Connor (guitar) formed the band in late 2010. They would later bring in a new member, Jane Park (violin/keyboard), and she filled the full-time position to the max. Upon first listen, I immediately thought of one of my favorite bands, Augustana (you will definitely hear the comparison if you listen deeply). The EP is a great listen and the fact that they managed to accomplish it in today’s climate is no small task. The words and music together flow perfectly and each song has a deep meaning, which is rare these days. There are seven tracks total and they’re all excellent. It’s a safe bet that you’ll not skip a song while listening to it. My personal favorite is “Darcy”—it literally grabs me by the heart. I also recommend “The River” and “Two White Beds.” If you’re looking for something unique and different, Old Nick are for you. If you’re looking for something timeless that will leave you wanting more material, Old Nick are also for you. This is raw talent at its finest. Whether you’re a mainstream trend follower, an infuriated radio listener or just a real fan, there’s no doubt that this group will have a huge impact on the scene.

Last but not least, I want to briefly talk about a bunch of guys that go by the name of Killed The Fixtion. Not only are they great musicians and a sick, tight band, but they are some of the most humble, down to earth dudes out there. They support every band in the scene time after time, and make it their main priority to spread the word. The heavy metal foursome from Hillside/Newark consists of Nelson, Kevin, Robert, and Abbad. Not only are they good friends, they are more like brothers. As the band’s bio states, “Killed The Fixtion started as a few local kids who shared a love for heavy metal, punk rock, and all things music. Their love for aggressive yet emotionally driven music served as their outlet. This was a drastic change from hanging out with gangs and causing trouble on the streets of Newark, New Jersey.” After forming, the four members of KTF expressed to me several times, in conversation and emails, how the only thing they want to do is focus on positivity. They’ve had their music featured on various radio stations and play all over the place. They don’t take anything for granted, in work or life, and play music because it’s what they love. These guys are all over social media so be sure to show them some love and check out their sound. Unlike hard rock, heavy metal has no desire at all to appeal to mainstream audiences, and that’s because the music sounds so monstrously anti-commercial (not a bad thing by any means), nearly distorted to anyone who’s only familiar with only what’s being spoon-fed to them by society. This is why we like Killed The Fixtion so much. Great dudes, great tunes.

There you have it, people; three more killer bands of all different genres for your musical radar. I am determined to bring to your attention the range, direction, talent, and style of all the great local bands out there. It’s only Wednesday, which means you have two more days to figure out what local shows you will be stepping into this weekend. Shows build relationships. There are memories to be had and made when you see anyone play live. Ignoring genre and venue, the sense of reality and emotion you get when you see somebody on stage performing in a way they’ll never duplicate again is sanctioning and enlightening. I implore you to support your local scene and head out. See you at the venues!