I’m continuously anticipating new material from Baring Teeth. The Texan trio’s avant-garde and combative exercises in dissonance and unsettling atmosphere make up some of the most thought provoking material in the world of death metal, steadfastly refusing the accessible and the predictable. Few other bands can match the density and sheer shock of their experiments, and three albums in they’re still surprising me. Transitive Savagery still sounds like Baring Teeth, yet it refuses to align itself with either Atrophy or Ghost Chorus Among Old Ruins, and like both of those albums, it’s a hard nut to crack. But crack it I must and crack it I will, if not for my pleasure then for your edification. So let us experience Transitive Savagery.
We begin with shock. “The Quiescent Mass” pushes every definition of extreme, exploding in atonal grindcore that threatens to completely repel understanding. The startling introduction’s feeling of expanded extremity never leaves, and as Baring Teeth set upon new compositions one can’t shake the fear that such violence will happen again. That anticipation grounds the album; the band show their hand in the beginning, but play their cards with inhuman patience, revealing their choices carefully, and do so with deliberate and even graceful movements. All three members drift apart, cross paths, support, and attack each other in equal measure. One moment, the bass is playing off of the guitar and the next it’s in lock step with the drums, then in opposition to both. Yet the band never lose cohesion and the songs never lose a sick sense of purpose. “Impressions Left Behind” puts the bass at the fore, mumbling an incoherent and stilted mantra that gradually pulls the other instruments into its stumbling gait, and once it has won them over, the three wreak havoc.
Though the trio’s group performance is nothing short of exemplary – and as freakishly unpredictable as ever – it’s their compositions that make Transitive Savagery worth so much concentration. A total rejection of traditional structures takes a lot of skill to pull off, but Baring Teeth have always set the bar high and cleared it. “The Quiescent Mass” clears the stage once its point has been made clear, making way for the challenging “Abstracted Mind.” It’s here that the band take their second big risk, capping the song with an uneasy piano interlude that stands in stark contrast to the trio’s usual mania. Somehow, it only serves to complete my transportation into the album’s shifting and alien consciousness.
Deliberate songs like “Aqueous” and “Vertiginous Noise” make a larger mark on this album than the busier compositions that defined Ghost Chorus, shifting the sound away from violence and twisting motion to leaden unease. Even at their most frenzied, the band emanate not malice but something more like sublimated apprehension. Transitive Savagery‘s lively recording only enhances this; the band sound both organic and alien, a holographic image appearing real but never materializing. Despite how furiously the album pushes back against your comfort, once you’ve found a way in, Transitive Savagery is enveloping.
Transitive Savagery shuns accessibility and embraces its own alienation, seeming to emanate from an intelligence just beyond the limits of understanding. Its barren strangeness draws the listener ever cautiously towards the horizon of the mind. Truly inventive and difficult, it is a striking example of creative and novel music in a genre which has seen far more imitation than innovation in the past year. If you can stomach its intricacies and bear its outright contempt for convention, Transitive Savagery will reward you with an uncanny experience that only Baring Teeth could ever provide.