The blunt and hammering “Bridges” was our first taste of Toothless. This sliver of chaotic metalcore from the quintet of Travis Antoniello (vocals), Eric Novroski (guitar & vocals), Brian Zannetti (guitar), Mark Naples (bass), and James Slattery (drums), made a jaw-dropping impression on us.
It was therefore a no-brainer to take the time to explore the band’s new EP Red, which releases on 30th March. The six tracks of Red follow on from the Pennsylvanian five piece’s self-titled EP which released in 2016.
About Red, James Slattery shares: “With this EP, I feel like we explored our individual influences more than in the past. We tried to incorporate a bit more groove while also pulling elements from some more obscure genres, like post-metal and drum and bass, to meld with our metalcore/mathcore sound.”
The EP begins with “Mask”, where beats feel like they’re colliding in abrasive ways and ominous chords make for a solid introduction. Feedback squeals drop us into delicious hecticness, where fire and force meld into a controversial ‘Look what you’ve done’ feel. Angular riffs and scrabbling in-your-face-ness hit into frustration that blisters with rapidfire forces. “Mask” offers up a perfectly dirty ending that flows right into “Bridges”.
“All I wanted was a conversation”
While I’m not necessarily a fan of chaotic metal, this first track was enough of an introduction to inspire full attention to whatever the quintet were offering up.
Blunt force effort and grittiness are what we find in “Bridges”, which hits hard from the outset. Driving riffs and a sense of hunting someone down builds into a menacing piece of uneasiness. Building sound and distorted vocals have “Bridges” feel like a neat package of revenge. Grooving bass and looped riffs are a stand-out on this track.
On the fast-paced “Torches”, overwhelm and a skin-crawling sense of needing to get away takes over every cell. It vibes like running and trying to get away from the impossible that breathes down your neck. With relentless drumfire, “Torches” is heat and fire in the breakdown section and Toothless show slick precision in keeping in pace with each other. It’s undeniably chaotic and there’s a sense of unease at watching it all unfold and feel ineffective.
The light percussive precursor of “Broken Toes” is almost eerily light in sound, building up with the guitars into something stronger. More subdued than its’ EP mates, “Broken Toes” offers up waves of heaviness with an edgy and uneasy sense of awareness and a blanket of concern. Driving riffs and distored vocals inspire squirming at this hectic multi-angled input, where more and more waves of pressure add to the overwhelm. Rhythmically sharp, we’re led to focus on the eerie spaciousness of the bridge and the vocalisations there, before a battlecry bleeds out onto the track. Noisy bass, guitar squeals, and rhythm experimentation make for a very solid and moreish outro.
Surprisingly gentle and warm at its introduction after the previous chaos, “Subtle” opens into looping riff and a sense of forward motion. Sung relatively somberly and with gentle enunciation, this grows into blistering and skin-grating intensity. Aching guitar floods the track, and it feels like defeat and hurt all rolled into one. The ending and its incredible instrumentation is perfect.
“Find. Your. Own. Way. Out. Of. This. Mess.”
The title track “Red” brings the EP to a close, and we lean again into a more chaotic and irregular sound. Gritty attempts to be heard and understood are wrapped up in futile feeling circular riffs. The bridge unexpectedly blends clean vocals with threatening guitar, before Toothless pull us into hectic territory; a fierce, raw, and incredible end to the EP.
The six tracks of Red are unquestionably solid, and Toothless seem to have carved a solid home in this sound that’s chaotic and seeped in overwhelm. The EP is a breathless ride through dimly lit places, accented by irregular sonic shortcuts, trying to find their way into open spaces and to be seen and heard.
Precision musicianship and fierce vocals work surprisingly cohesively in the midst of these chaotic pieces of life.
While the tracks are wild adventures, I haven't found them to individually stick in my head (yet).