Baring Teeth - Atrophy
Technical Death Metal
8 songs (42:25)
Release year: 2011
Baring Teeth, Willowtip
Reviewed by Charles
Gorguts’s influence hangs pretty heavily over today’s tech-death scene, it’s fair to say, but the resemblance borne by Kansas’s Baring Teeth is particularly striking. At points Atrophy seems like the work of a fanatical worship cult, obsessively preserving the arcane vision imparted on the world with Obscura over the course of the many millennia (13 years) since its tentacular birth. Gorguts’s albums are, of course, almost unlistenable at times (in a good way!), and are perhaps of most value as a demonstration of the perplexing vileness that can be wrought by skilled musicians using the basic tools of death metal. So, the first challenge for Atrophy is to demonstrate why it’s actually a good idea to do what they are doing.

And for much of the album, I’m not sure Baring Teeth really escape the overwhelming shadow of the source material. Their sound is actually marginally more accessible, with tracks like the title song and End also integrating more recent influences like Gigan or Ulcerate in the bouncing psychedelia of some of the guitar lines. But listen to the opening of Distilled in Fire, for example, which haphazardly constructs this mind-fucking mid-tempo stagger out of squealing and scratching lead ejaculations, irregularly lurching drum rolls and a rhythm guitar sound like clanging scrap metal. This is the bleeding sound of pure jabbering horror, in the finest tradition of Obscura or From Wisdom to Hate. But with a new Gorguts record looming, what’s to be gained here? The more dynamically-inclined slower songs (like the 12-minute closer Tower of Silence) sound like worthy but ill-fated attempts to emulate Clouded, for my money one of the greatest death metal tracks of all time.

The point of the record, and what makes it worth hearing, lies in Vestigial Birth, where Baring Teeth produce something so completely gonzo as to temporarily mute those troubling comparisons. After a subdued opening it launches into a scintillating splurge of garbled up-tempo tech-death riffing, at one point assuming such a densely chromatic character that it feels almost like a sick mockery of Rimsky-Korsakov’s practice-room classic Flight of the Bumblebee. This is a great track, though it could be argued that other recent newcomers such as Pyrrhon have only recently released an entire album of comparably exciting material.

It won’t do to be too harsh here. Uniqueness is preciously rare in death metal, and there’s no reason to suggest that Baring Teeth are any more derivative of their inspirations than any number of bands whose lack of originality is rarely questioned because it is seen as a mark of old-school credibility. What’s more, as discussed above, Atrophy can at times be an immensely enjoyable record, presenting some concessions to listenability that are simply not found on albums like From Wisdom to Hate. This means that it may yet find an audience beyond the small sect of people that actually like Gorguts. This is the debut album of a clearly talented band, which suffers from coming across a little more as a museum-piece re-creation of the works that inspired it rather than a living statement of future intent.

Killing Songs :
Vestigial Birth
Charles quoted 70 / 100
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