Sludgy hardcore trio The Tooth packs musical range and social commentary into an intensely dark new 7" EP
The cover art for We’ve Got Everything, the newest release from Oklahoma City hardcore/sludge outfit The Tooth, hints at the irony of the two-song 7-inch’s title. A small, emaciated figure is the only clearly identifiable image against a backdrop of an obscure, multi-layered morass of desolation.
It appears to be someone immersed in numerous levels of despair but still somehow separate from them.
This depiction of the complexity of suffering effectively illustrates The Tooth’s multi-faceted approach to combining hardcore, sludge, and beyond.
A brief drum fill leads into a full-on aural assault at the beginning of the EP’s initial track, “Spires”. Lurching riffs smother the listener as frantic drumming and stabs of harsh vocals punctuate the intensity
Then, in the first of several violent shifts throughout the track, the band drops into a momentarily slower tempo that highlights bassist and vocalist Josh Lehew’s quasi-melodic chant detailing the gruesome decay of the “spires of greed” that lay in the song’s crosshairs.
Both the stabbing vocals and Chris Jaeger’s guitar work periodically return to the angular melody that anchors the song.
As the track nears its conclusion, an electrified build-up of tension gives way to a warped, distorted voice that mockingly celebrates the excesses and perversions of our time. References ranging from pedophile priests to private prisons are followed by sarcastic refrains of “We’ve got everything” and “We’re ok.”
The outro unleashes a new level of fury. Unrestrained blast beats transition into a crescendo of rage. Lehew shrieks a final indictment of pervasive corruption cycles that is delivered with so much vitriol that it threatens to tear the song’s final moments apart. Ultimately, however, the dark energy gradually dissolves into a parting lyric: “Take it all back. Take it back.”
“Canine Chain” immediately showcases Jaeger’s beefy guitar tone in a head-banging riff that alternates throughout the song with sludgy verses. Vincent Ciarlo’s ferocious drumming seems to surround the listener with thunderous fills and cymbal crashes that develop the track’s restless intensity.
The lyrical tirade continues here, this time focused on a hostile rejection of the behavior of someone who is “Always watching, never doing… Always reacting, never proving.” This message pairs well with the bleak atmosphere created by the music, but it is also delivered with a brashness that indicates the band’s hardcore roots.
On this EP, The Tooth seems to be methodically pushing the boundaries of its well-defined sound. There is more than enough belligerent energy to activate mosh pits here. Meanwhile, some listeners may find that these two tracks also evoke fear, angst, and perhaps even a spark of inspiration to live better than the figures rebuked in each song.
Dynamics like these showcase a high level of songcraft that can be attributed to the band’s experience producing abrasive but consciously-composed metal for over ten years.
In this sonic exploration of the sources of human anger and suffering, The Tooth purges plenty of animosity and gloom. Still, an unmistakable undercurrent of resilience also bolsters the record. The band is moving forward, despite the darkness, and seems to be encouraging its listeners to do the same.
Jeremy Duke is a freelance writer who enjoys helping out on The Sanctuary board, riding his bike around OKC, and making crab cakes.