Published by Davide Pappalardo on June 4, 2017
Los Angeles-based industrial metal project 3TEETH (see our interview with their leader Alexis Mincolla here) returns with a vengeance: three years after their self-titled debut and the remix album Remixed (here reviewed by us), they give us their sophomore album <shutdown.exe>, licensed by their own label OMF Records. Things have grown quite big for Alexis Mincolla (singer), Xavier Swafford (keyboards), Andrew Means (drums), Chase Brawner (guitars), and many occurrences have happened during these years. After their tour with Tool, and the promotion by their guitarist Adam Jones (fan of the band), the mainstream and alternative press took quite an interest in them, and Alexis, a charismatic and resourceful character, became friend with some of the most interesting protagonists of modern media, like comic book writer Grant Morrison (if you don’t now about him, stop reading this review and go get his magnum opus The Invisibles, and his book Supergods, for a start), who has immortalized the singer on the pages of Heavy Metal Magazine with the comic INDUSTRIA.
It’s no surprise things have become big even in their music: this time the production is handled by Sean Beavan, who worked in the past with Nine Inch Nails, Guns ‘n’ Roses and Slayer, and it shows in the saturated atmosphere full of heavy guitars and in the range of dynamics touched by this work. We don’t have a total departure from the sound of their debut, instead they expand on that, upgrading their skills on many fronts. The vocals are more adventurous and varied. It’s clear Alexis has taken some lessons during this time, and the songwriting is fuller, epic, more structured and playful. If their first album was a love letter to the darker side of 90’s American coldwave and electro-industrial, now they completely take these influences in a modern sound, where electronics, moody melodies, charming grooves and cutting guitar loops are fused in a futuristic juggernaut. Of course, you can trace the tradition of the genres in the DNA of this work, both the “mainstream” side (Whitezombie, Marilyn Manson, Nine Inch Nails, 16Volt, Rammstein) and the “alternative” one (Front Line Assembly, KMFDM, Ministry, Cat Rapes Dog, Godflesh, Skrew). But focusing only on this aspect would be detrimental: the real strength of 3TEETH lies in their understanding of the here and now, once again encapsulating the Zeitgeist of our world (and especially of the effect of technology and social media on our life), its contradictions, via a genre they grew up with.
Our ride starts with Divine weapon and its religious and eerie choruses, an intro which evolves into a pounding march, made of mechanical noises and steady beats. A Middle-East inspired melody introduces a roaring riff accompanied by Mincolla’s effected vocals, showing off the metal side of things, while not forfeiting hard electronics. Pit of fire plays with distorted bass frequencies in the beginning, then it gives us a hellish ride offered by inquisitive rhythms, distorted guitars and a sleazy voice, reminding us of Rob Zombie. The track adds eerie effected choruses before it descends into a pit made of thunder-like riffs. The overall effect is exhilarating, and we cannot forget the dreamy bridge ala Nine Inch Nails, made of arpeggios and sax sounds, just like we can’t be unmoved by the final maelstrom made of released fury.
Atrophy is one of the singles of the album, an electro-rock number with Mansonesque vocals and sing-along choruses, upon which crunching guitars are layered. There is a dystopian mood which enriches the nervous atmosphere of the track, another fine example of the fusion of physical and aggressive guitars and morbid, cutting electronics, which reminds us of Broken-era Nine Inch Nails. The next stop Oblivion coil is a joy-ride full of groovy keys and straight rhythms, completed by an irresistible cybernetic chorus, with a 16Volt feeling due to its catchy nature. Probably one of the easiest track on the album, but that’s not a fault at any rate.
Shutdown is a display of electro-industrial movements, sinister and evocative keys, and devastating guitar-fronted attacks with razor-shaped vocals and pounding drums. As always, 3TEETH don’t waste time in their delivery, aiming for the jugular of the listeners. Degrade keeps the same 90’s mood, recalling Front Line Assembly with its bass-lines and cyborg vocals. Guitars are not forgotten, but they’re filtered so much they become another electronic instrument in this futuristic soundscape. Tower of disease is based, in its introduction, on broken rhythms and Ministry-inspired marching guitars and vocal samples; then we find hardcore attacks underlined by Gothic keys. We could say this is a tribal/urban fusion with a dramatic scope in the making.
Tabula Umbra is a crawling affair, a metallurgic doom session with distorted sounds and tribal rhythms, a lisergic instrumental soundtrack for a very bad trip, which devolves in a cacophony in its finale. Voiceless is one of the highlights, a spiraling and nightly, stalking sound, opened up by surprisingly ethereal electro movements and female choruses in duet with a melancholic Mincolla. Piano keys and emotional crescendos introduce the gloomy but energetic refrain. Slavegod is a slow, grinding, monolithic and asphyxiating episode, influenced by doom-industrial (see Author & Punisher and Godflesh as a reference), which releases all its repressed anger in the tornado-like refrain full of distorted vocals and oppressive guitar riffs. Subtler arpeggios and guitar works are not missing, showing the growth of the songwriting of the band.
Insubstantia starts as an electronic ballad made of charming, whispering vocals and hypnotic rhythms. Then, it becomes an industrial-rock roll-coaster with grandiose orchestral sounds and martial guitars. Female vocals have their say amidst drum machines and crunching crescendos, completed by Mincolla, who actually sings with pathos. B.O.A recalls, once again, the more industrial-driven Whitezombie with its creepy vocals and inquisitive drum machines, not forgetting to add enthralling refrains and electronics symphonies, while the ending track Away from me is an eerie and slow march, where emotional storms see evocative vocals and obsessive guitar loops, layered upon misty sounds. The final part is dominated by a piano underlined by cosmic effects, a perfect way to end the song and the album.
“I have a firm grip on reality, I can reach out and strangle it at any time” they say on the artwork of the vinyl version and in the lyrics of the last track, and they are not kidding. 3TEETH have a clear vision of our world, of religion, war on terror, medias, communications, the flow of data and conformations, politics and human society. A modern world with roots, schemes and fears as old as time, translated in a dimension where we are connected virtually to each others, but at the same time more isolated and lonely than ever. The fascination with technology, the repulsion for its effects on our lives, the needing for it, the games of power, the human spirituality, the dystopian visions of the cyberpunk culture which have become reality, but in a subtler and more mundane way than we suspected. They don’t have an answer for our questions, doubts and fears, but for sure they question our and their lives themselves with an affirmative attitude. All of this, of course, without any naivety about what it takes to make it in the world of music, especially alternative music: a lot of work, a clear vision, an attention for details, a strong identity, image and message and, then again, the right choices, friendships, and some luck. Our heroes seem to have all of these ingredients, and now the doors of possibilities are fully open for them. We will see where they will take their sound and the concept of industrial music in the mainstream; as of now, we have a sophomore album which shows a welcome growth. Someone maybe will prefer the seedier, sweaty and fetish-dungeon-like atmosphere of the debut, but it can’t be denied more emotions, skills and developments are at play during <shutdown.exe>. For sure, the cybernetic and human souls are fused in a seamlessly fashion, instead of standing one aside the other, a hybrid in full development which has not reached its full potential. We will gladly follow its steps in the time being.
Label: OMF Records
Rating: 8, 5