The cliché of the second album. It gets raised every single time, by just about everyone, but is it really a thing? I guess it depends on what happens with your first. If your first album isn’t great, though, will you have a chance to make a second? This second album expectation only really comes in after a first album that is either brilliant or simply shows promise. Can the artist build on what they’ve already done, or will they be a one-trick pony, forever destined to be remembered for the first and that’s it?
But Listen: 152: 3TEETH
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Which, of course, was the quandary that 3TEETH found themselves in after their first album. Here on amodelofcontrol.com it was comfortably 2014: Best Album, and a great many other places lauded it too, and part of that was because of what the band did with existing styles, adding their own spin and making a cool sound. So where would they go from that?
It certainly appears that this second album is the most anticipated industrial album of the year. Maybe a bold statement, but just look at their almost meteoric rise since their debut a few years back. This time around, Billboard, Rolling Stone and The Independent (the latter surprisingly getting an exclusive stream of the album a few days before release) are all covering it, among others, and the metal press have very much caught on too. The latter is perhaps unsurprising after their high-profile support slots with Tool, and also a few big, big shows with Rammstein coming up this summer too.
The murmurs of backlash have been bubbling around the internet too over the past few weeks, with a number of people suddenly announcing their dislike for the band (and particularly their “new direction”), but then as a band gains success that has always happened – but in this case it has been interesting to watch, mainly as they are the first “industrial” band to genuinely look like they are going to cross over to a wider audience in a little while.
It is something we need to remember. The industrial scene is not huge – and indeed is smaller than it used to be, that’s for sure – and it is difficult to begrudge a band wider appeal and greater success. Not everyone wants to trudge around a small circuit, playing to small, indifferent crowds. Some bands want more, and all power to them. 3TEETH have been given an opportunity through their work over the past few years that many bands would kill for, and ask yourself – what would you do?
I suspect the answer would be to grab it with both hands, and hold on through the ride for dear life.
That said, there are similarities to the first album, of course there are. The reliance on thumpingly heavy groove and jagged guitars is still there, with song after song an industrial dancefloor certainty. The image of some dank, neon-lit future-sci-fi club with sweat dripping down the walls also comes to mind while it is raging out of the speakers.
But there are some progressions. The production – by the band, with additional mixing by Sean Beavan – is astonishingly dense and tight, with much of the air sucked out to make more room for technology to fill every space in the mix (there are synths and samples and fuck-knows-what-else everywhere). Alexis’ vocals have quite an evolution, too, with clean vocals getting as much prominence as the heavy treatments we’re already used to.
I’ve seen some comment suggesting that this album is “more metal” than the first one. In what sense? It’s not as if the debut was devoid of guitars (and there is nothing as thrashy as the punishing X-Day on shutdown.exe, either). The opener Divine Weapon, however, gives an idea of where things are headed. A slow, sludgy groove, with choral samples and vocals buried deep underneath jagged guitars and synths, and yes, it’s really fucking heavy.
Pit of Fire is one of the most immediate of the songs we’ve not heard prior to the album release. Once again devotional samples coil around a core of burning intensity, and Alexis actually sings the bridge – although heavy treated – which certainly adds a different feel to the song. The best of the new songs by a mile, though, is Oblivion Coil. A synth-heavy groove, with another vocal performance that takes new directions and a chorus that has quite the striking change of gear. Not to mention a breakdown of such heaviness and intensity that it brings to mind the mech-doom-noise of Author & Punisher – and all of this in three minutes.
The pairing of Tower of Disease and Tabula Umbra is an interesting one. The former is mid-paced, with massive, treated drums and chugging guitars, with a body-slam of a chorus, while the latter is a short-ish, ritualistic track, complete with weird, retro voice samples dealing with magick, that kinda fades into Voiceless, the first of a few tracks in the latter half of the album that have a more laid-back feel, and that also sees the intensity of the album tail off a bit. That said, this song introduces female backing vocals to great effect, but it also has synths in the chorus that make me think of early Linkin Park – not a reference point I was expecting to use. I mean, it’s alright, but far from the best song here, and what I think is the same vocalist appears again to assist on the much better Insubstantia, and this grinding, tech-metal industrial hybrid kinda sounds like Marilyn Manson (you know, when he was good) is doing the vocals. That said, if only Manson could be as good as this nowadays.
Both make better use of backing vocals than the closing Away From Me does, though, where the much-trailed appearance of KANGA is rather wasted, as her contribution is all but buried in the dense mix. The tail-end of the album does have one last sting, though, in the penultimate B.O.A., which has a brilliant, slammingly heavy (and melodic) chorus that is one of the best here, and a general feel of a song where they got the balance between the metal and industrial sides of the coin bang on.
Of the songs we’ve already heard – Slavegod, Degrade, Atrophy and Shutdown were all released in one form or another has one-off tracks over the past year – Atrophy is by a long chalk the best of them. It was the point last year where I realised the band were making the most of their new opportunities, with the track being a hulking industrial-metal beast that absolutely explodes into a riff-heavy and memorable chorus that the likes of Stabbing Westward would have killed for once upon a time. Sean Beavan has certainly tweaked this song a bit – mainly to adjust the balance of it, but there are also a few synth effects familiar to other work he has done in the past – but there wasn’t a great deal he needed to do with the basics he was presented with, that’s for sure.
Shutdown has another monstrous chorus, but the distortion on it is kinda the equivalent of visual pixellation and is as disorientating on headphones as this suggests, while Degrade, for me, doesn’t quite stand up as well. I wasn’t a fan of Consent on the first album, and on this album, this song is one that just doesn’t quite work, but I can’t put my finger on why. Slavegod was debuted last summer at live shows, and is perhaps the most “metal” song on the album. Another very loud groove, guitars are layered over just about everything, and will certainly appeal to the metalheads drawn in, particularly those who like Godflesh. Those wanting more “pure” industrial will likely be lost by the howling, screaming chorus.
The big question, then, to me, is this. Who is this aimed at? Is it the rivetheads who all lapped up the first album upon it’s release and in the months after as word spread? Or is it the Tool and Rammstein fans (in particular) on the metal side who have picked up on the band since they began their seemingly relentless touring?
Actually I think it’s both. As I’ve already noted, 3TEETH are in the unusual position nowadays of very much having the chance of crossing over to the much bigger metal pond – and with industrial having gone through something of a resurgence recently where it is getting coverage in places where it wouldn’t normally nowadays, I can only see the pace of this accelerating.
3TEETH were always a band with one foot in the metal side of things anyway, so the subtle move towards it is no surprise whatsoever to me, and it is handled well. This is still very much 3TEETH, many of the things I loved about the debut are still here, and it is best to approach this album with an open mind. That said, if you didn’t like the first album, I’d be pretty surprised if this one will convert you.
I like this album a lot. I’ve listened to it quite a few times since the week of release, and the more I listen, the more I’ve appreciated the nuance on show. There is a lot going on within the album, and you won’t get it all at first, and I’m not sure you’re meant to.
The one thing it doesn’t have is the element of surprise. We know what the band are capable of now – the debut saw to that – so at points this album does have the feel of retreading, reworking and refining ground they’ve already covered, but in other areas this is an album where the band take the leaps forward that they need to take. The only way is up.