Review Summary: EndEx recalibrates their formula and avoids most of Metawar's mistakes.
I want to elucidate my chequered relationship with 3TEETH and get to the matter at hand before I talk about whether EndEx
is a good album or not (spoilers: it’s good). Selfishly, this is closure for me, just so I can finally get to the bottom of why I have such an unsettled opinion on the band. Even writing this review, this must be the fourth or fifth draft I’ve done, wasting hours trying to articulate 3TEETH’s sensationally fascinating stylistic choices. To preface the point – I’m not the kind of guy who sits there trying to work out a band’s headspace at the time of recording, the music is either good or bad and that’s the end of it, but 3TEETH are such a complicated band to listen to, they make it impossible not to analyse their gambit. During the shutdown.exe
era of the band, I, rightly or wrongly had stonking expectations for all future works, but by the time Metawar
had arrived, those expectations were ceremoniously quashed with a serviceable, albeit vanilla industrial/alt-metal album; a straight-shooter that set its targets on shall we say, broader appeal, revealing the overarching issues at hand. Unbeknown to 3TEETH, shutdown.exe
was at its best when it was being mercilessly heavy and experimental the majority of the time. Those imitative blemishes (ironically the accessible parts) were easily overlooked, because when they knuckled down on the extremities of their sound, they were legitimately on to something. Unfortunately for Metawar
, the band reversed the formula, exacerbated their worst traits and served up a pretty damn forgettable record in the process.
Outside of the aforementioned caveats, there’s the issue of them ineffectively implementing their genuinely captivating sociopolitical commentary – things like PSYOPS, worship, hyper-consumerism, ever-evolving technology, and the enslavement of mankind with government and unelected organisations looking to take your freedoms away, via methods of distraction. I can tell you now, there isn’t a band around today who’s as lyrically and thematically engaged as 3TEETH. However, this isn’t optimally applied either, as is evident on Metawar
, which serves its themes with cookie-cutter alt-metal writing templates and distractingly doubled-down imitative vocal work. I think the ultimate takeaway from my frustrations with 3TEETH in recent years is there’s clearly an idiosyncratic, highbrow version of the band aching to get out into the fore: a version of 3TEETH that frees itself from the shackles of trying to reach a greater audience; to engulf listeners in their cordial experiments and proficient bone-crushing riffs, hopefully one that epitomises Alexis’ fantastic lyrical commentaries in the process. And I’ll admit, I could be completely wrong with my assessment of the band’s machinations when it comes to creating music, but if that’s the case, I’m personally bemused by their lack of awareness for as to where their greatest qualities lie.
Which brings us on to the band’s fourth LP, a merciful entry that seems to almost fully acknowledge Metawar
’s main problems. On the whole, EndEx
is an excellent entry that sticks close to the band’s strongest attributes, albeit, not without its frustrating moments. Essentially, EndEx
is an amalgamation of Metawar
, leaning harder on the latter than the former. This is a heavy album that pragmatically angles some of Metawar
’s accessibility in a tasteful, not overbearing way and has a much higher success rate than on previous attempts. The album’s accessible tracks, “Drift” and “Higher Than Death”, are composed far more prudently this time around. “Drift” feels like a reaction to their cover of “Pumped Up Kicks”, which was one of the better tracks on the last album, balancing their industrialised sound with a palatable fidelity for the original track’s pop-y disposition. Taking their experiences from that song, they use the template to forge “Drift”: a likeable, mid-tempo track with decent melodies, a sombre atmosphere and some steadfast songwriting to boot. “Higher Than Death” is less furtive in execution, opting to blast the doors from the hinges using Metawar
’s alt-metal baseplate, but the grandiose chorus successfully galvanises the track’s cohesion, making it fluid and engaging and not lumbering or generic.
Unsurprisingly, the album is at its best when it’s heavy – the aggrotech “Merchant of the Void”, the head-bobbing stomp from “Scorpion”, and the scathingly chaotic one-two punch “Xenogenesis” and “Acme Death Machine” do a rip-roaring job of delivering some of their heaviest tracks to date. On top of that, “Plutonomicon” does a fantastic job being moody, catchy and unapologetically heavy at the same time, while “Paralyze” stands as one of the best songs on the album. I don’t like Ho99o9’s other collaborations with the band, but the attitude and broiling rage that seeps from their section of the song is an easy album highlight. The song clearly builds up to their moment and the guys don’t waver in the slightest when it happens. Throughout all of this, it’s also worth mentioning this is Alexis’ best-performed album to date. He sounds great on this thing, with a variety of hard-hitting screams, and a clean voice that largely keeps away from the derivative echoes of his revered influences.
So that’s eight out of twelve tracks that successfully knock it out of the park. Not bad, right? Well, I can’t be too judgemental of two of the four iffy numbers. In fact, I commend “Ali3n” and “What’s Left” for attempting their experimental risks, unfortunately both tracks fall a little limp in their execution. “What’s Left” is a weird mix of industrial and punk with the results feeling half-baked rather than exciting, and “Ali3n” is undisputedly a heavy track, but it walks a fine line being generic and goofy because of the bizarre intergalactic synth samples that wig out all over the piece. Still, both are okay tracks in their own right, but they aren’t up to par with the bulk of what’s on here. Nevertheless, I’d take these two songs over “Slum Planet” – a track that carries over all the issues plaguing Metawar
– and “Everybody Wants to Rule the World”. You heard right, EndEx
comes to a close with a cover of Tears for Fears’ “Everybody Wants to Rule the World”. Obviously capitalising on the success of “Pumped Up Kicks”, the band attempts to rekindle the magic with an 80’s new-wave hit. The problem is that the conversion is as successful as their “You Spin Me Round” cover; soulless folly that feels both insignificant and a wasted opportunity in equal measure. The sentiment is not lost on me though, and the track’s subject matter is obviously pertinent for both the album and the band’s entire moral standings, however, the execution is so limp it fails spectacularly.
Overall though, EndEx
bests its predecessor in every single way, by quite a margin I might add. There are a couple of suspect moments dotted about, but on the whole 3TEETH clearly understands where their core strengths lie and uses them effectively here. EndEx
can be hilariously heavy at times and the songwriting is very strong, managing to amalgamate the core ideas from their last two albums to make something fresh. The band still hasn’t tapped into their Super Saiyan potential yet, but I genuinely believe they will get there. My passion and enthusiasm for what these guys are doing is strong. At the end of the day, 3TEETH are keeping the industrial flame burning for, hopefully, future generations to follow in their footsteps, and that’s why I go in on them so hard here. The potential this Californian quintet possesses is as clear as day, I can only hope they unleash that apoplectic power in the near future. As for EndEx
, this record is definitely a step in the right direction and has some of their most refined and exciting tunes to date. It doesn’t dethrone shutdown.exe
, but its ambitions and consistency make it an excellent entry, with fans sure to lap it up.