Review: Baring Teeth – Transitive Savagery
I’M STARTING THIS REVIEW THE WAY THAT BARING TEETH STARTS THIS ALBUM SO STRAP IN DORKS.
IT’S REALLY GOOD. AND LOUD AND MAD. WHOOPS YOU DIDN’T STRAP IN QUICKLY ENOUGH HOPE YOU’RE NOT TOO ATTACHED TO YOUR BONES BEING THE WAY THAT THEY ARE USUALLY. LIKE I SAID, IT’S REALLY GOOD. AND LOUD. AND MAD. LET ME REPEAT IT A FEW TIMES, BUT WITH MY FOOT, TO A LOT OF YOUR BONES.
If the subtlety of my opening paragraph was lost on you, let me say more directly that “The Quiescent Mass” is an absolute rager that kicks off the album perfectly. It’s like Baring Teeth thought they were a grind band for a song. I can’t help but
bare my teeth crack a grin at the fantastically absurd use of pinch harmonics at the end, so be ready to get nuts for a minute and a half with that opening track.
The second track, “Abstracted Mind,” briefly hints at continuing in the same fashion, but it violently settles down (that seems like a contradiction, but just go with me) into a oddly lurching…groove? Groove isn’t really the right word. If you’re on a boat on a really stormy sea and you figure out a bizarre way to lean and heave with the violent rocking just enough to keep your footing, that’s what it’s like. Snippets of that “groove” barge back in between frantic, more technical excursions, then shortly after the 1:50 mark a stuttering, angular riff tumbles its way over a looping and seemingly disconnected bassline before the band blasts back into spiraling, dissonant oblivion. The song slowly and organically relaxes the pace, twisting through plenty of snippets of deftly recalled material from earlier in the tune.
I’m not going to attempt a minute-by-minute breakdown of the whole album, but the opening two tracks beautifully encapsulate this new Baring Teeth album. The blazing, grating dissonance of their previous work is perhaps a bit more restrained, but the band is clearly a tighter, more focused unit that’s able to stretch their legs more in rhythmic interplay and comprehensive riff development. Pacing is a category in which the band has always done well; the slower moments stretch and drag out maliciously, but the air is always tense with the possibility of a wide-eyed, frantic sprint into and most likely through the nearest wall.
If you get halfway through the album and miss the opening assault, the title track “Transitive Savagery” is there just for you. The band has said they wanted the B side of the vinyl to kick off like the beginning, and this song erupts from the underworld to fulfill that goal in hideous, eldritch glory. All three members absolutely shine here, and if they were stretching their legs through creative territory earlier then those legs grew 12 more joints and became the things of nightmares on this song. Be ready for the outro to be stuck in your head forever.
Speaking of creativity, the final track “Impression Left Behind” is worth its own full review. I’ll stop myself from adding eight more paragraphs to this and just say that you’ll listen to it thirty times and find something new with each listen. The furious blast. The crippled groove. The slow morph into a seething frenzy. Then the beautifully abrupt end. Like Baring Teeth suddenly decided they were tired of us and walked out.
When the Texas trio last leered at us with 2014’s Ghost Chorus Among Old Ruins, they were a prime export in a death metal scene rife with bands leaning heavily into Gorguts-influenced dissonance. They naturally did it better than vast swaths of the great unwashed masses, so I was curious to see how they had progressed as a band in the four years since and how this new album would fit into a very different 2018. Death metal has undergone something of an old school revival; while riffing styles continue to diversify the overall form and structure of the genre squats in the past.
The answer? Transitive Savagery certainly sees the band progressing and not retreading their own steps, and neither are they simply doing a great job at the current trend. It would be easy for a band of Baring Teeth’s technical ability to take a little of this and a little of that from the tastes of the day and execute their product at a high level, but this album shows that that’s not the Baring Teeth way. What exactly is the Baring Teeth way? I don’t know, but it’s ugly, it’s weird, it burns if you touch it, and it’s anything but typical.