Industrial sounds are busy shaking up hardcore at the moment but, as far as the mainstream incarnation of the genre goes, industrial metal appears to be largely done and dusted. The pounding, mechanical sounds that once dominated alternative music during the ’90s and early 2000s have left little mark on modern metal and the genre as a whole has once again become more of a specialty than a mainstream fixture. They just don’t seem to make them like they used to. Or at least they didn’t until 3Teeth hit the scene. The Los Angeles quintet garnered some much deserved attention with their last release – the superb shutdown.exe (2017) – and their third full-length Metawar once again sees them leading the charge toward a rejuvenated industrial metal scene.
3Teeth’s style is firmly rooted in the sounds of late ’90s and early 2000s industrial. Rather than formative early acts, such as Ministry or Nine Inch Nails, the Californians pull from those influences that dominated the genre’s commercial peak. Nary a moment of Metawar goes by without drawing some some form of direct comparison to turn of the century Marilyn Manson or Rob Zombie‘s early solo material. Yet, their derivative approach comes off more refreshing than stale – given that such sounds are largely absent in the modern era. Manson and Zombie have each made slight returns to form across their past couple of records, but each artist is also still recovering from a massive mid-career slump, brought about by experimentation with more traditional rock, and even country-esque, styles. Even Rammstein‘s recent return has been characterized by a softer flirtation with modern electronica, rather than the style of massive industrial riffing with which they made their name.
Metawar is a much cleaner album than those before it. Unlike the moodier mechanical landscapes embodied by Ministry or Godflesh, or even the rougher displayed on <shutdown.exe>, Metawar represents an industrial juggernaut running at peak efficiency. Listening to the album is like being churned through the innards of a giant, well-oiled machine made up of recycled components from all your favourite ’90s industrial acts. Its compositions can often be described in terms of direct combinations of what came before. Opener “Affluenza” sounds like that song Rob Zombie did for the Matrix Reloaded soundtrack mixed with Antichrist Superstar-era Manson sensibilities. The Manson/Zombie vibes carry through to standout track “Exxxit”, whose video (below) blends that edgy, industrial favourite body suspension with clips of the model vomiting black blood in a manner which recalls Dir En Grey‘s infamous video for “Obscure”. Yet, again, while the elements might be cliché, they’re executed in a manner that feels both fresh and effective. There are a few moments where 3Teeth shake things up, such as the almost-djenty bass slides that open “President X”, or less-expected comparisons to be made, such as the Sepultura/Deftones-esque bounce of “American Landfil” whose chorus melody even reminds me of Coal Chamber‘s “El Cu Cuy” (how’s that for a deep cut?). For the most part, however, the other tracks come off like mash-ups of album tracks from Hellbilly Deluxe (1998) and Holy Wood (2000). Not that that’s a bad thing! There’s nothing here with quite as much staying power as “Shutdown” or “Pit of Fire” from <shutdown.exe> but, as a base combination, the industrial cocktail offered up on Metawar remains exceedingly potent.
Ironically, Metawar‘s most memorable number is perhaps its only truly unoriginal offering. The record is rounded out with a cover of indie-pop band Foster the People‘s breakout hit “Pumped Up Kicks”. The track’s inclusion is certainly more purposeful than the usual “heavy band ‘hilariously’ covers pop song” format, which has been driven into the ground ever since the nu-metal crowd got a hold of it circa 1997. The lyrics of “Pumped Up Kicks” are infamously told from the point of view of a young school shooter, with its central refrain of “all you other kids with the pumped up kicks, better run, better run, faster than my bullet” addressed to their victims. The song achieved near-ubiquity since its release, yet it seemingly received little-to-no serious critique or analysis then or since – with its dark subject matter treated more as a piece of disposable trivia than anything worth seriously addressing – and has even been used in commercial ad campaigns. Conversely, many of the bands 3Teeth take influence from – especially Rammstein and Marilyn Manson – were held accountable in the media for supposedly inspiring the Columbine High School massacre in 1999. In the years since, mass shootings have only become more and more common – both inside and outside the US. Recently, four men were killed by a gunman in Darwin in my home country of Australia. That shooting came less than three months after the Christchurch shootings in New Zealand, in which 51 people were killed, as well as the shooting in Virgina Beach, which left 13 more dead. Whether 3Teeth’s cover of “Pumped Up Kicks” provides any substantial critique of the blasé attitude with which many such events are met with these days is debatable. However, it’s certainly provocative and maybe a bit of shock and provocation is what’s needed at the moment – both within the industrial metal scene and the world at large.
In time, 3Teeth will likely need to bring more of their own, distinct personality to the table. However, their nostalgic approach to industrial metal remains refreshing in the current climate. Although derivative, there also isn’t really anyone (of note at least) doing what 3Teeth doing at the moment and certainly no one doing it to the same standard.