If nothing else, it’s easy to see what 3TEETH are trying to do. Being an industrial metal band can be difficult when all bases have been so resolutely covered in a larger space for a while now, and there’s merit to their perseverance regardless. 2017’s <shutdown.exe> mightn’t have lasted all that long right now beyond its heavier focus on bleak, oppressive tones that feel like a natural fit for this sort of metal, but it showed ideas if nothing else, something that this genre can be notoriously short on at times. But going into Metawar, the ideas that it feels like 3TEETH are co-opting this time feel a lot less steadfast, moving towards more political material which is fine on its own, but doing so in a way worryingly reminiscent of Ministry’s flatlining, un-nuanced takes on last year’s ultimately reviled AmeriKKKant. What’s more, given that 3TEETH are currently on tour with Ministry, it’s safe to presume that some sort of influence was carried over beyond simple sonics, and going into a whole new album, that can be a dicey thought.
It unfortunately carries over rather faithfully as well, though thankfully not quite to the same atrocious extent. Where AmeriKKKant struggled to get basically anything right, 3TEETH are at least good at keeping their mood as thick and oppressive as an album like this demands, and that’s something they’re consistently able to do well. But as for everything else, Metawar not only ends up being an absolute pain to get through in one sitting given how the band are hell-bent on drawing every single element out for as long as they can, but in terms of production and writing, this just doesn’t turn out well at all. That’s probably the point, as 3TEETH look to emulate a certain gruesomely terse and deranged nature in their music as an obvious parallel, but their attempts just end up dated, anaemic and honestly quite hard to stomach.
It’s not difficult to see why either, especially when the aforementioned production job is as noticeably loaded and intrusive as it is. The commitment to bleakness is admirable, especially when it’s stretched across a 46-minute album with barely a moment to let up, but in the grinding, ten-tonne weight that virtually everything has, what’s left is an album that has to rely on its own mechanical construction to wedge something of a positive progression in there. To be fair, 3TEETH do occasionally strike lucky when they conjure up a bit more atmosphere in the threaded-through synths like on Sell Your Face 2.0, but otherwise, Metawar lumbers along with the sort of greasy grind that characterised bad nu-metal, to the point where a track like Surrender does so little that the clank of its pieces coming together is basically audible. And that all makes for one hell of a monotonous listen; there’s no modulation or pacing that comes into effect whatsoever, and with barely an individual feature to differentiate these tracks from one another, the whole thing feels like nothing but empty noise. That in itself is only exacerbated by the excruciating grainy filter draped on Alexis Mincolla’s vocals that’s presumably trying to nudge him closer to Marilyn Manson but is corrupted with far too much static to do anything of the sort, but for an album that’s arguably trying to spout big messages about the state of the world, it all leaves them feeling rather anonymous. The atrocious vocal mixing doesn’t help, to the point where Mincolla is as good as inaudible for good portions of tracks, but it’s not like there’s much of real transgressive or transformative substance being said here. That in itself is rather easy to glean from track names like American Landfill and President X, as the commentary ends up feeling just as tired and overburdened as the instrumentation its paired with, simply sinking into the background with nothing to really take away from it. It speaks volumes when the most cogent example of spinning on a theme comes with the cover of Foster The People’s Pumped Up Kicks; sure, it’s out of leftfield, but its narrative around a school shooting does fit with 3TEETH’s darker mood and ideals, and when it finds more success here than the vast majority of the band’s original material, it doesn’t stamp a high watermark of quality upon them.
At the end of the day though, it’s hardly like expectations were high for this album to begin with. Industrial metal in itself is on the fringes of popularity to be generous, and it’s not like 3TEETH are making waves beyond those pretty narrow boundaries. With that in mind, it’s easy to see how genre anoraks might get a kick of Metawar, even if only for the atmosphere it cultivates, but this is not a boundary-pushing or even long-lasting album in the slightest. It already feels about twice as long as it actually is, but when barely anything it has to say or do lands with certainty, there’s nothing worth taking away from here. It’s not the worst thing ever, but that’s pretty much the most it has going for it.
For fans of: Ministry, Mushroomhead, Static-X
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘Metawar’ by 3TEETH is released on 5th July on Century Media Records.