194 dB / BRYAN REED

 

No. 1: We do this to
ourselves…

 

By Bryan Reed

 

Beginning a thing without a determined endpoint is
necessarily uncertain, but I’d argue that’s a part of its excitement. This
could be a failure. Or it could succeed. Or it could merely be, neither failing nor succeeding for
whatever lifespan we deem to grant it.

 

As I embark on this uncertain
and exciting experiment in offering my own excursions into the happenings of
popular music’s louder, less accessible poles, I find it painfully ironic that
one of my favorite metal bands of the past few years – the Durham-based Tooth whose Animality EP features prominently in my memories of my senior year
in Chapel Hill – is dead. Tooth is yet another casualty of the Summer-of-Death that
so far has claimed a handful of celebrities and, apparently, America’s
ability to bite its collective tongue
.

 

 

(Tooth guitarist Rich James leading his band’s final show in Durham, N.C.
Photo credit: Jordan Lawrence.)

 

That Tooth disbanded before
fulfilling its potential for greatness is perhaps most indicative of the nature
of beginning something with no pre-determined endpoint: it will end,
eventually, and when it does it’ll make an impact.

 

Fortunately, Tooth’s
dissolution arrives with a concession, bittersweet though it might be, in the
form of a split LP with Philadelphia’s
The Claw. In a way, the
record marks an end for both bands. The A-Side captures Tooth’s final
recordings. So when Tooth vocalist J-ME Guptill declares “We do this to
ourselves,” in it’s hard not to assume his lyrics are foreshadowing the band’s own
demise. The B-Side documents the last tapes cut by former vocalist Mikey
Brosnan who died in late 2008 at the hand of a drunk driver. And when The Claw
launches into its first of three songs, it’s hard not to let a sense of doom creep into the
experience knowing that not long after recording this song, Brosnan would be
dead, and his living friends and family would be grieving.

 

The Claw, though, soldiers on
through their three songs – tense, thrashing metal with an ear for Swedish
melody and Florida
brutality – and into the future. Tooth, though, has made its final statement
with three songs that somehow amplify both Rich James’ perfect guitar leads and
the band’s hardcore urgency without sounding contradictory.

 

My friend Jason Kutchma, of the
band Red Collar, wrote a
summary of Tooth I really can’t beat, so here it is:

 

“It seems these days that most metal bands have solos that go on
forever, jerk-off sessions that I can’t stand. In order to make themselves more
interesting, they have rhythms that get head-y and too complicated but I think
it often has the opposite effect: I think it makes it boring as hell. Tooth
however are everything, and I mean absolutely everything, that I ever loved
about metal and truthfully about music in the first place. They do everything
right. They are perfect. I kept on seeing them live, listening to their two
song demo to see if I really mean it when I say I believe they are perfect. If
anything, it just strengthened my belief. I believe them when they play. I
believe in them when they play. They are a most beautiful Frankenstein, put
together with the greatest parts of metal, thrash, and punk. But they don’t
lumber and thud along with their arms outstretched, motivated by an Abby Normal brain wondering where Master is with their next
quick fix of an electrical jolt to get them through the night. They have what
Frankenstein and the many, many metaphorical Frankensteins in the music world
never could have or never bother to get: heart and soul.”

 

Tooth leaves us this three-song
testament to their largely – and criminally – unheralded greatness. But I still
believe in them when it plays.

 

ALSO IN ROTATION: Marduk – Wormwood (Regain); Lowbrow – Broken Speech EP (Self-Aware); Greymachine – Disconnected (Hydra Head); Keelhaul – Keelhaul’s
Triumphant Return to Obscurity
(Hydra Head); Earth – Radio Earth (Southern Lord); Magrudergrind – Magrudergrind (Willowtip); Graf Orlock – Destination Time Today (Vitriol); Pryamids with Nadja – Pyramids with Nadja (Hydra Head)

 

 

***

 

Bryan Reed is from
North Carolina and, despite his best efforts, he still hasn’t grown out of the
racket that irritated his friends and family in high school, and continues to
irritate them in the present. Stalker-types should know that they can follow Bryan on Twitter
@subparrockstar.

 

 

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