Review Summary: An exciting opportunity squandered on echoic songwriting.
I suppose, in part, I’m to blame for Metawar
being the most disappointing release of 2019 so far. I mean, looking back on it now, there was no way 3TEETH was ever going to meet or exceed the level of expectation I had for this record – it was destined to fail in that regard. But I’m getting ahead of myself; it helps if I explain why Metawar
would have been my first pick over any one of this year’s biggest knockout albums, had I been given a choice. The reason for this hype is simple: it’s purely on the grounds that Shutdown.exe
showed so much promise back in 2017. Sure, their sophomore album had a couple of caveats that stopped it from being a stone-cold classic, but the potential underneath it all was so blindingly apparent. This is a band that successfully revived the crusty industrial sounds of the 80s and 90s and did so with a clear vision in mind. The band took the sounds of Bile, Skinny Puppy, Frontline Assembly, Rob Zombie, NIN and Marilyn Manson, shoved them all into a meat grinder with riffs that could turn whole planets into dust and presented their sonic invasion with a sincere political undertone. They sat on a bulk of imitative traits at times, but when they got it right it was like nothing else out there. So, with that context in mind, by rights all they had to do was focus on their exceptional ear for EBM grooves and face-melting riffs in order to break away with an idiosyncratic sound – i.e. songs akin to “Slavegod” and “Divine Weapon” than the derivative parodies of “Atrophy” and “Oblivion Coil”. Yet, tragically, what Metawar
manages to do is the polar opposite of what it needs to.
Let’s get it out of the way now; this isn’t a hyperbolic rant. Metawar
is not a bad album by any stretch of the imagination. On the contrary – 3TEETH’s third effort is a serviceably executed industrial metal album, with a number of enjoyable moments to be had in the midst of its well-produced and mechanically sterile dystopian backdrop. Like Shutdown.exe
, the band continues to pay its respects to the industrial architects who formed this, now, dusty and antiquated genre. But with all that being said, the vital differences between this album’s failures and Shutdown.exe
’s successes are night and day. The band approaches these two albums with a very similar mindset – both records wear their influences like a badge of honour – but Shutdown.exe
handles its inspirations like a set of tools in order to form what is an enjoyably unforgiving, punishing and, at times, uniquely intriguing experience. What we get with Metawar
is the same theory but with a tremendously botched execution. The biggest frustration comes from seeing the band taking the minor niggles of the last album and blowing them up to be the focal point here: Alexis’ earth-shaking screams and intentionally stoic performances are now a thing of the past. Metawar
curates its dominated style with the same clean Nivek Ogre-Marilyn Manson-Rob Zombie twanged vocal impersonation that corroded previous offerings. Alexis’ flat, reverb-soaked drawl subjugates almost every number here and makes it dreadfully difficult to take the band’s sound as its own thing anymore. Their acrimonious vehement for modern America’s way of life is now largely delivered in laid-back, soporific croons and hearty lashings of melodious licks in a baritone. Their sincerity and message aren’t in question here – it never has been – but the band’s narrow focus on accessibility has taken away the serrated bite found on previous works.
There’s no two ways around it, Alexis has dropped the ball here. But the pill wouldn’t be half as difficult to swallow had the music actually taken things up a notch or two. However, even in this department the music resorts to compounding a mixture which turns into a 3TEETH-lite experience. Compositions have the bare minimum of imagination put into them, as they lean towards radio-friendly alt-metal/nu-metal riffs so bland they end up making Metawar
sound, essentially, neutered. The once minimalistic and unconventional approach to guitar playing is now converted into generic Pantera grooves; electronics take on a less pertinent role, opting to sit in line with a more traditional metal aesthetic; and the biggest crime of all stems from the metronome-styled drum work which sits in the snug pocket of what everything else is doing. The industrial wrecking ball snaps and flourishes of contagious colour – which rightfully elevate Shutdown.Exe
’s strongest tracks – have regressed into autopilot-playing in order to push the pseudo alt-metal style they’ve started to run with here. Fundamentally, Metawar
sits closer to the soundscape of a 90s Fear Factory album than one that sits on the edge of its influences with a fresh set of integrative ideas. The industrial innards are still very much the meat and potatoes of this band’s sound, but Metawar
removes a lot of the extremities lent from other genres which once gave their promising sound a lasting resonance: the ethereal breathers of past iterations aren’t present, nor the outright bone-crushing heavy tracks. Instead the record sits comfortably in the middle of conventionally safe heavy metal songwriting.
It’s a record overtly designed to be succinct and digestible, but the results create a sound with overwhelming indifference. A track like “President X” or “Bornless” does little to persuade you that 3TEETH are pushing their artistic abilities to the limit, rather leaning on the genre’s systematic clichés. This outcome has taken 3TEETH into the realm of being a good ‘gateway band’ than a band that chooses to grab the bull by the horns – to pioneer and innovate for a new generation – and it’s a damn bloody shame to see, because they’re more than capable of such feats. With that said however, I still believe these guys will go on to spearhead an industrial metal revival for the coming years, and I welcome more light being shed on what is a really interesting genre of music. But for the raw, unrelenting potential this band has residing in its underbelly, Metawar
feels like a greatly missed opportunity and does little to display that talent here. Suppression and creative anaemia are the order of the day here, regardless of how well they play derivative industrial metal tunes. If you’re new to this type of music it will definitely be a good starting point, as it displays an impressive array of positives this type of music can offer. If, like me, you were looking for that elevated display of artistic evolution, ultimately you will be disappointed with the final product. This is a solid slab of industrial metal without a distinguished bone in its body, and not much else. Here’s hoping for next time.
SPECIAL EDITION BONUSES: N/A
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