Dissonant extreme metal has been having an absolute field day of late. Once one of metal’s most niche and unapproachable subcategories, it feels like every other week a new album pops up vying for the jagged throne of dissonant royalty. No matter where you look, there’s no shortage of whirling, metallic chaos to be heard. Many of these albums are good indeed, but every so often, one like Baring Teeth’s latest, The Path Narrows, will emerge, and remind the listener just how exhilarating it is to just give into the madness sometimes.
Baring Teeth is a name I’ve known for near a decade, since I first stumbled upon Ulcerate and wondered just what the subgenre of dissonant metal had to offer. Shamefully, The Path Narrows is the first album of theirs I’ve taken the plunge on, and it’s immediately apparent that these guys have one of the most delightfully dynamic, gripping spins on this particular sound I’ve experienced in a while.
At their core, Baring Teeth are clearly inspired by Obscura-era Gorguts as is tradition for the genre. The riffs flourish on weird timings and seem to almost stumble over themselves at many a time, yet there is a definite and readily apparent sense of groove that regular kicks into play. Indeed, songs like “Obsolescence” and “Wreath” nearly demand at least a spirited head-bob from the listener, if not a full headbang. The galloping rhythm that propels parts of “Culled” is just plain catchy, as are a surprising number of passages throughout. It’s a sound that would satisfy anyone who enjoyed Mother of Virtues-era Pyrrhon, if a little less utterly demented.
Elsewhere, though, Baring Teeth deploy different tricks to make themselves stand apart. Tapped out leads like those in the intro of “Rote Mimesis” almost call to mind mathcore bands like Car Bomb or Frontierer, if slightly less oppressive. “Liminal Rite” and monolithic closer “Terminus” bring out moments of queasy, dread-invoking ambience to give the listener an unsettling reprieve from the violence in a way that I’d expect from bands like Blut Aus Nord. In particular, the latter track is one of the few moments synthesizers emerge on the album, and the resultant passage is just desolate. Slower moments like those, or the borderline psychedelic centers of “Culled” and “Wreath”, prove some of the most gripping on the album.
The structuring of the songs and album as a whole likewise goes a long way towards an uncomfortable atmosphere. Intro track “The Gate” kicks off the album on howling voices wailing in the distance under sickly, jangling guitar chords before “Obsolescence” pulls listeners into the sonic maelstrom. Tracks jump and careen through varied speeds and levels of aggression with little signposting, leaving the unsubtle implication that the listener should just give up on predicting what comes next and take the album moment by moment. Honestly, it’s deeply engaging that way, and Baring Teeth are happy to surprise you throughout. By the time final sickly drones of “Terminus” close out, you’ll feel like you’ve been on quite a journey, all in a tight 40-minute package.
And on that note, I’d be remiss not to credit the band’s outstanding musicianship. Beyond some outside support with vocals and some synth on the closing track, Baring Teeth keeps things extremely tight in their power trio format. The vocals, traded off between Scott Addison and Andrew Hawkins, are harrowing in that wailed, Gorgutsian tradition. Hawkins’ guitar playing, similarly, is just plain wild. Pummeling when necessary, airy and discordant nearly as often, and always on point, he would steal the show in most cases. But that would be a disservice to the intense drum performance of Jason Roe, who plays like an absolute hurricane throughout the faster parts while showing some wonderful taste in the slower segments. The latent jazziness he brings in can not be overstated. And as chaotic as the other members performances are, Scott Addison’s bass often provides the central backbone of the sound. His tone is crushing, and whether he’s holding down the rhythm or matching up with the spidery guitars, that bass always demands attention.
Likewise, the production on this album is perfect for the style. It’s open and decipherable, but just rough enough to assure that The Path Narrows could never be called ‘sterile’ or ‘clinical’. It feels perfectly balanced for both the aggression the band displays, and the atmosphere they work hard to evoke. As can be expected, Colin Marston did an outstanding job with the production and mix here.
It’s gotten harder over the years for a dissonant death metal band to really stick out from the crowd, but Baring Teeth have made that look easy with The Path Narrows. It’s a dynamic album, expert in construction while also feeling loose and almost amorphous, and has proved the most I’ve enjoyed a dissonant metal album since Thantifaxath dropped Hive Mind Narcosis at least, if not clear back to Aeviterne’s The Ailing Facade in 2022. The Path Narrows makes good on the metaphor inherent in Baring Teeth’s name: It’s as savage and unpredictable a wild animal whose fight or flight response has just been triggered, and they decided to fight. Listeners may find themselves a little battered and disoriented after squaring up with this beast, but hey, we can all do with a challenge sometimes. Take a few rounds with The Path Narrows, and you may just walk away hopped up on adrenaline and flush with the satisfied excitement from the fight.
Artist Photo by Will Mecca Photography