In music, the art of impersonation is criminally underrated. Granted, if a band is fixated on replicating derivative nonsense in the hope of cashing in on whatever trend is doing rounds, said band’s efforts will (deservedly) be dismissed on a whim. However, imitating the supposedly inimitable, irrespective of the lack of originality required, is a remarkably impressive feat. If you’re expecting something novel or ground breaking from Baring Teeth’s debut album Atrophy
, you’re going to be underwhelmed. Baring Teeth aren’t a “rip-off” act per se, but neither can you say they’re subtle in the way they channel their influences. Save for a cleaner production job – courtesy of the album’s 14 year deficit to its spiritual predecessor – and a much more subdued vocal performance, Atrophy
comes closer to mirroring the deranged, extra-dimensional aesthetic of Gorguts’ Obscura
than any album before it.
Just like the aforementioned, Atrophy
is a churning cacophony of warped rhythms and strange, sinister soundscapes. The eponymous opener immediately engrosses the listener in contorted riffery and drumming before briskly shifting into ambient-tinged death/doom. Although the opening track reveals itself to be a lesser cut over the course of the album, it nevertheless sets the tone of the album effectively. Atrophy
is riddled with spontaneous segues, tempo shifts and atmospheric passages, utilising this demented concoction of instrumental mayhem and organic production to craft genuine suspense and then shattering it without warning. The sonic disarray is like a musical equivalent of M. C. Esher’s legendary Relativity
lithograph, in which the basic principles of gravity are suspended in favour of the artist’s personal canon. Just like Relativity
creates its own set of rules and abides accordingly, and though the result may appear superficially twisted, in actuality it is a cohesive and sensical (though abnormal) piece of work.
It should be noted that Atrophy
doesn’t approach the quality of Obscura
, it’s neither as structurally abstract, as texturally nuanced nor as vibrant in execution. The most apparent difference between the two albums is their respective vocal performances. Though Baring Teeth have managed to flesh out Gorguts’ methodology very well, the dual vocal assault of Luc Lemay and the late Steve Hurdle remains something that is yet to be replicated. The vocal performances of Scott Addison and Andrew Hawkins don’t extend far beyond unobtrusive guttural murmurings, but it’s clear that said vocals are merely intended to be accents to the organised chaos accompanying them. The demented, jazz-tinged guitar, bass and drum work is set ominously to the fore-front, and while entertaining and puzzling they may be, the album is actually strongest at its slowest and most drawn out. Extra praise must be reserved for the album’s producer, whose attention to dynamics as well as organic tones and textures allow the slower sections to work their magic as intended. The three-punch combo in the form of tracks “Distilled in Fire”, “Vestigial Birth” and “Scarred Fingertips” is quite easily the highpoint of the album, showcasing the band shifting focus from organised chaos to timbre-conscious soundscapes and faint ambience.
It’s a shame that Atrophy
’s validity as a musical triumph will forever be in dispute in light of its fervent to imitate rather than innovate. No, it doesn’t reach the heights of Obscura
, however it can lay claim to the idea that said album is no longer one of a kind, which isn’t exactly a minor achievement. Atrophy
may very well be a stable mate in musical worship as opposed to innovation, but its sheer effectiveness and superb execution is a call for admiration.