(The Dutch band Teethgrinder released a new album through Lifeforce Records in the latter part of July, and we follow that today with DGR‘s review of this new record.)
When it comes to the type of music Teethgrinder make there isn’t really a concept of ‘doubling down’ on anything. For three albums – including this newest release – and an introductory EP, Teethgrinder have already existed at maximum volume and intensity. There’s no doubling of anything left here. Every song is an explosion from the start. and a lot of times they sound like they’re on the edge of a frenetic internal collapse.
Both Misanthropy and Nihilism were already excellent examples of the sort of high-volume attack available to the band, and if you’ve been following NCS for a while you’ll know that we’ve been banging the drum about both for a while. This is probably why it actually came as a surprise to discover that the gap between Nihilism and the group’s newest album Dystopia is almost five and a half years; it really doesn’t seem like the band have ever stopped.
Nihilism had such a long-burning flame here that it only just now seems like it has embered out a bit, and so Dystopia arrives at a perfect time. Yet it’s in a weird position, since we now have to ask if ‘if there’s nothing for the band to keep hammering on, then what direction is Dystopia left to travel in?’
The answer to that is a little tougher to answer because Dystopia does what a lot of third albums do, in trying to combine its two predecessors, but also does what you might expect of a third Teethgrinder full-length. Dystopia, to put it bluntly, is Teethgrinder MORE.
It is tempting to attribute the idea of Dystopia being an amplified version of everything before it to the gap between releases. It makes logical sense because that amount of time meant there was probably a lot of music pent up within the band, but that doesn’t quite tell the whole story here. Dystopia feels like Teethgrinder examining their own formula and leaning on everything that they really thought worked.
The prevalence of multimedia samples has been increased here – from movie, television, radio broadcast. If you were worried that the album would go without the scene-setting intro song, “Ascendance” is where you’ll start to notice just how much Teethgrinder were trying to shove into even just the intro track. There’s more sludgy, crawling songs this time around instead of just having one right in the center of the fray. The faster songs seem even more noise-filled and violent than before. As a whole Dystopia doesn’t have a whole of ‘shiny new’ ™ happenings within its bounds, but what it does have is a mind-boggling ton of what already made Teethgrinder such a pyrotechnic experience to begin with.
The front half of Dystopia is very traditional by Teethgrinder standards. It is the drumkit-destroying blastfest you come to the band for, coupled with the high-speed, high-screamed vocals that propel the band forward to the point of self-immolation. “Birthed Into Suffering” – the immediate follower to our scene-setting “Ascendance” in front – does the quick-count and then launches right into a railgun shot of a song.
Basically, the way Dystopia plays out is that from the moment you tumble through the two minutes of “Birthed Into Suffering” the band then barrel through three more songs that are equally as intense as that opening bit. “Worthless”, “Blood Ritual” and “Disgrace” are all part of one dense block of hyperfast grind verging on dissonant noise. “Blood Ritual’s” crashing back-half may seem to slow things down for a bit but “Disgrace” does its best to wipe that slate clean if you aren’t immediately blindsided by its opening sample bit.
Where things really grind themselves to a halt is when you hit “Our Failing Species” – one of the first ‘epic’ songs within Dystopia that tries its damndest to fuse everything that is Teethgrinder into one track. “Our Failing Species” starts out faster, hammers on the multiple samples, and fades out on combination slow groove – after a fun blast section wherein the band fall out and leave the drummer for a few seconds – and yes, even more musings on how humanity is….fucked.
Dystopia‘s back half dances between those two particular modes – slow and moody, fast and violent – for the rest of its run time. The slower songs have more impact this way, with a song like “Cloaked” intent to drag everyone and everything through the mud, and the song “God Complex” before it going in the fire-fueled death metal route for its intro. “God Complex” also makes it clear just how much Teethgrinder really love the snare-drum count-off during the Dystopia sessions.
The faster songs that follow the slower ones hit even harder as well, so when “Cloaked” wraps up and you spill into “As I Believe The World To Be, So It Is” you’ll definitely notice it – if not just for the inhuman scream right in the intro after the you guessed it snare drum count off. That said, anytime this happens they play out more like warning signals to a mosh-pit apocalypse than any sort of intro to an actual song. It just becomes the shorthand signal for “Teethgrinder are about to sand your face down to a nice, smooth sheen via guitar”.
The plus side to that dynamic of peaks and valleys is also that “As I Believe The World To Be, So It Is” becomes one of the later-in-the-running highlights, though it’s not one hundred percent clear if it’s because the song is so welcome after the nihilistic dirge that is the song prior to it.
That’s how you wind up with Dystopia playing out like “Teethgrinder: MORE“. It’s a glorious refinement of their sound, and every song further amplifies the idea that every song is an increased version of the album before it. It’s one of their most intense experiences, one of their moodiest, and one of their meanest. If you’ve been a long-time fan you’ll notice exactly how the gears are turning here, but it’s also exceedingly difficult to ‘care’ about that since every song is the exact sort of battering that you come to Teethgrinder for.
Dystopia does what many third albums are expected to do: Instead of trying to deftly combine elements of its older siblings, it instead rams them together with sheer force, and whatever mutated monster comes out of the other end is essentially what Dystopia is. If this is your first experience with the band it’s a hell of a place to start, and if you – like us – have been jamming them for a while, then Dystopia is a hell of a followup.