Metal just gets weirder and weirder as it expands, and that can only be a good thing. Take Dallas’ Baring Teeth, a trio that in a previous era might have taken one idea—say, its Gorguts-y love of dissonance, as demonstrated through whiplashing technical death-metal chords—and beaten it to death for a decade’s worth of albums and tours. But on its debut album, Atrophy, dissonance is just one idea/approach among an unruly flock of them.
The title opener skitters through plenty of jarring changes and rhythmic switchbacks as the requisite Cookie Monster does his bit, but in the gaps between the crashing chords and bellows of subsequent track “End,” in something like a bridge, lurks a creepy-crawly progression that’s almost hooky. The absurdly technical dissonance of “Distilled in Fire” gives way to the brooding postpunk-flavored menace of “Vestigal Birth,” which sounds more like a Jesus Lizard outtake than anything from the Relapse stable. “Scarred Fingertips” carries the album even further away from death-metal orthodoxy with its slow-burn tempo and guitarist Andrew Hawkins’ torch-song chords before breaking cover for one of the moments on the album that most closely approximates standard growl-and-blastbeat DM, then ditching that after a few bars for a minute or so of tribal pounding and howling sustain. The 12-minute-plus closer “Tower of Silence” works an epic angle without ever giving in to pyrotechnic payoff or doom wallow, building and maintaining an agonizing tension that it slowly lets bleed away.
There are moments on Atrophy when Captain Beefheart or even U.S. Maple make as much sense as reference points as Dillinger Escape Plan might, but the album never seems to stray into “false metal” self-consciousness. Somehow, this combination of finger-busting gnarl and brooding mood feels natural, like Baring Teeth was born to do it. And maybe it was.