LOUDER REVIEWS: 'Transitional Forms' - Sharptooth
In the turbulent world of 2020, the view around us is often one of the unimaginable suffering, cruelty in the streets, mixed with a generation already growing up in the age of anxiety and increased awareness of damaging mental health issues. With deadly police brutality against black citizens, peaceful protestors, and a botched pandemic response costing hundreds of thousands of lives and breeding a level of ignorance that is truly staggering, Baltimore, Maryland hardcore quintet Sharptooth’s newest record, 'Transitional Forms', is a line in the sand. It’s a rallying call on all fronts: for intelligence and critical thinking; for a fractured American society to find unbridled compassion and empathy for one another; for self-love and gaining control of mental health; and for music to actually say something important in a time when the world needs it the most.
And it does all of this brilliantly. It’s ferocious, whip smart, and it takes no prisoners.
First to be commended is vocalist and lyricist Lauren Kashan, who, having undergone a great deal of trauma in her own life, composes lyric after lyric straight from the deepest bowels of her soul. They reach a place of zen and understanding few can claim to have plumbed. From the powerful call to understanding in “Evolution,” with lines like:
Empathy is not a virtue, it's our only chance Hold on tight to one another, it's the only way that we will stand The cycle of oppression maintained by your self obsession We can only overcome when we recognize that we are one Our evolution as a people requires us to work as equals If we are all to survive, we cannot eat ourselves alive
Or the blistering condemnation of fake feminism and phony allies in 'Hirudinea', with the burning and acerbic cry of “You’re not a feminist just because you fucked one.” Her vocals are unrelenting and throat shreddingly guttural at times, only adding to the urgency and desperation of the topics at hand. She also adds tinges of melody as well on tracks like '153', bringing to mind the stylings of bands like Every Time I Die, as well as full on singing passages in songs like 'Nevertheless (She Persisted)'. Kashan leaves no stone unturned. From the toxicity and intellectual blindness of southern conservative voters on 'The Southern Strategy', to the emotional weakness and insidiousness of certain men on 'M.P.D.B', Kashan spits harsh and necessary truths on every single track. Not one is lyrically or vocally weak in the slightest.
The rest of the band is also firing on all cylinders. The mixing is satisfyingly thick and chunky. Guitarists Keith Higgins and Lance Donati sound massive and aside from their slamming chugs, they add aforementioned ETID like guitar licks on tracks like '153' and 'The Southern Strategy'. There’s a lot of play with different tones of abrasion, and various nuances that sound like they came off a Code Orange record can be heard as well. Bassist Peter Bruno does the opposite of blend in. His booming tone complements drummer Matt Hague perfectly, who is certainly talented at laying down brutal grooves, though his contributions slide into the background a bit more than the others. But again, from the beatdown of 'Life on the Razor’s Edge', to the fury and flurry of 'Nevertheless (She Persisted)', the band sound at the top of their game; totally synchronized, loud, and wild.
This is a record not just for this moment in time, which it undoubtedly is. It’s a record for all time. Total, unrelenting human kindness and compassion towards self and others are not values that go out of fashion. They are core tenets of who we are meant to be as a species on this planet. Sharptooth understand better than anyone that once those are gone, all our value is lost. It is so rare a record like this comes along with such a powerful message. It truly is music that says something, and it should fill every listener with courage and hope, and be a powerful outlet in these times of internal and external darkness. Sharptooth are, without a doubt, one of the most vital bands in metal and hardcore at this moment, and this record is a reflection of that fact.
'Transitional Forms' is out now via Pure Noise Records - stream the album here:
Check out the video for 'Evolution', featuring Justin Sane from Anti-Flag, below: