Ghost Chorus Among Old Ruins: A Baring Teeth Triumph

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In the late 1880s, a man named Herman Webster Mudgett moved to Chicago and obtained a position at a pharmacy. Under his better-known alias of H.H. Holmes, he eventually bought the pharmacy, as well as a vacant lot across the street. Holmes then constructed a large hotel on the property with the intention of housing guests of the World’s Fair of 1893, which was held in Chicago. This hotel, a giant, squatting structure known as “the castle” by nearby residents, was much more sinister than its exterior suggested. Holmes repeatedly changed builders during its construction, which yielded a final product that only he understood. Above the ground floor that housed the newly-located pharmacy and various shops, there were twisted, oddly-angled hallways, doors that opened to brick walls, stairs that led to nowhere, secret passageways, doors that only opened from the outside, and rooms hooked up to gas lines. In short, this was Holmes’ personal murder playground. He would bring his victims to the hotel, torture and kill them, dump the bodies down a chute that led to the basement, then cremate or dissolve the remains. At the time of his eventual execution, he had confessed to nine murders, with another 18 confirmed to be his. However, final estimates range as high as 200, based on missing persons reports and possible remains found in the “Murder Castle.”

Like this hulking, labyrinthine structure, metal is a world filled with bizarre twists, sinister sounding turns, and endless mystery. If one can ignore the association of the notorious serial killer, this building can serve as a fitting metaphor: there is perfectly fine, yet entry-level material on the ground floor, but a deeper look only reveals an amorphous maze that proves nearly impossible to navigate. Taking up residence in one of the back hallways that spawned off a secret passageway and a crooked staircase is a brand of death metal that resists precise classification. Lurking around these parts you’ll find Gorguts, Ulcerate, Zealotry, Artificial Brain, and, in the darker shadows, Ævangelist. With their sophomore effort, Ghost Chorus Among Old Ruins, the Dallas, TX trio Baring Teeth have firmly staked out their own corner in this sinister area.

Baring-Teeth

To be sure, we aren’t dealing with an album that charts new territory, or one that is found slinking in an undiscovered new hallway of our proverbial madhouse. What Baring Teeth manages to do, however, is pay their respects to the forefathers of weird, nasty death metal while simultaneously staying fresh. This particular subgenre simply cannot be played with an arsenal of riffs to anchor the odd format of each song, and riffs abound in this album. The intro to the title track rips through a mélange of dissonance that stretches itself over a few octaves, hulking and heaving through odd-time jumpiness without feeling unglued. I had to go back and listen to the first two minutes several times, and each time I gained a deeper appreciation for the way the chaotic, frenetic energy compounded until settling into a furious blast (not to mention the clever nod to “The Mountain” that shows up in a fragmented quote amidst the chaos). The latter half is devoted to a more stripped down idea, a slowly crushing steamroller riff that contrasts excellently with the volatile opening.

That element of contrast is on fine-tuned display throughout the album. That seems like an odd statement; we usually associate contrast in metal with clean guitars, clean singing, and extended instrumentation, and there is none to be found here. However, Baring Teeth show their knack for effective pacing through juxtaposition of flashy, technical madness against bone crushing space. The overall arc of “The Unwilling” matches the framework of sonata form, slowly punching through the beginning to a blasting middle, then back down to a crawl, ending with a timbral curiosity of extended bass trills backed by splashy cymbal rolls. The unhinged madness of “Dripping Sun” has a Dillinger-like wildness to the first half before settling into an almost droning blast section.

While they aren’t partner tracks, I don’t feel like I can listen to “Visitant” without letting the curious, slow fade out run right into “The Great Unwashed.” The focused, drum-driven opening of the former bores its way into a groove of sorts before completely unleashing into a firestorm of dense, upper register chords and raw, nasty energy. Then it settles into a thick, boiling, and slowly churning whirlpool that slows into a simmering sludge that, well, just sort of fades out. As a standalone song it may lack the compositional cohesion of other tracks, but “The Great Unwashed” seems to stir it back to life before diving in and thrashing about in the dense, muddy ooze. The second half of this track is where Baring Teeth really shows off their talent for technicality, space, and firmly anchoring the listener. The riffs are built from feverish themes that rise again and again while the material in between mixes and develops, resulting in repetition that doesn’t feel repetitive. Grooving, simplistic sections break up the fury and stick in your brain for a brilliantly paced song that finishes an idea started all the way back at “Visitant” (I don’t particularly need to find out whether that pairing was intentional or accidental, I’m just going to enjoy the songs).

I’m no sound and production expert, but I have no issues with this record. The superb guitar and bass work from Andrew Hawkins and Scott Addison is absolutely on point throughout the album, and I love how every riff comes through with a highly discernable, yet appropriately edgy clarity. The warm, rounded bass tone is a perfect counterpart to the brilliantly nasty guitar work. Additionally, I really appreciate the fact that you can hear variations in the snare sound and dynamics, meaning there wasn’t a blanket pasting over with some digital snare sample. It also helps that Jason Roe is clearly a monster drummer with a knack for keeping things interesting. The one drawback to be found here, depending on the listener’s taste, is a lack of vocal variety. The chosen style absolutely fits the overall dissonant chaos, but when I heard the strained, anguished character near the end of “Dripping Sun,” I couldn’t help but think how that could rear its heinous head at other points on the album.

In closing, pay close attention to this band. While influences of Gorguts and Ulcerate are clearly heard in their foundation, Baring Teeth is firmly stepping into their own monstrous, shadowy corner of this Murder Castle with Ghost Chorus Among Old Ruins. Stylish pacing, frenzied technicality, heated dissonance, and crushing heaviness mark this ripper of an album, and also make my top ten list even more difficult. Thanks a lot, Baring Teeth.

Stream the new album here.
Preorder the new album here, and get their debut album, Atrophy, for only four dollars with it.

(Photo VIA)

  • Edward #RIPNEGROD

    Stockhausen this is a great review.

    I got a chance to listen to this album in its entirety when it premiered at… Revolver. Need moar listens. I enjoyed it a lot though.

  • Tom Waits For Better Days

    Unrelated: I just saw an announcement of a TOM WAITS GIG NEAR ME on Fb. 2 seconds later depression kicks in as I see it’s a tribute band celebrating his 65th birthday.
    Anyways getting back to the review now

    • Edward #RIPNEGROD

      Ugh, what could be worse than that.

      • Tom Waits For Better Days

        NOTHING!

        • Xan

          Perhaps arriving to the gig to see Tom Waits standing in the door and offering you a back stage pass only to suddenly realize he was pointing at the fat greasy man next to you. You are then denied permission to enter the venue. You then get run over by a bus and a paralyzed for life.

          • Tom Waits For Better Days

            Dude, thanks for the nightmares!

          • Xan

            Always happy to scar!

    • KJM

      Dammit.

    • Janitor Jim Dvggan’s Spooky To

      That is the saddest thing I’ve heard all day.

    • Stockhausen

      That would wreck my world. The greatest 10 second of existence thus far, followed by a plunge to the depths.

      • Tom Waits For Better Days

        The call of the void is currently strong.

  • Tyree
    • Edward #RIPNEGROD

      Tyree are you getting excited for Listmania?

      I am. I think SfB will post his official list Friday. I am going to dive into all the sites I haven’t had time to read to peruse everyone’s lists, and compare them to my own, thus judging their taste in heavy metal by my standard.

      Top 40? Lolz at making a top 40 or 50. ToH >>>>>>

      • Tom Waits For Better Days

        15 max or you’ll lose the point of making a list (instead of just naming every album you liked)

      • Janitor Jim Dvggan’s Spooky To

        My list is going to be a top 11 because I couldn’t fit all the great releases into a top 10.

        • Tom Waits For Better Days

          I think ToH does a top 10 + 3 honorary mentions

          • Janitor Jim Dvggan’s Spooky To

            I’ll have to pick two more honorary mentions though.

        • KJM

          Think I already gave ya my top 10, don’t see any late additions.

          • Janitor Jim Dvggan’s Spooky To

            I have finalized my top 10 and it is going to be a good one.

      • Tyree

        I’m looking forward the madness for sure. Should be interesting to see everyone’s taste in music this year.

        SfB’s always seems to have a pretty good list, and YES it is always a long one.

        • Edward #RIPNEGROD

          He’ll probably do a Top 50, and since a couple of the sites I love do huge top lists, I probably shouldn’t be all up in their business clownin’ shit.

      • I swear you fuckers have been obsessing about EOY lists since July.
        /it doesn’t matter. Charli XCX drops an album next month that will shatter your lists.

        • Edward #RIPNEGROD

          Since 2011 I have absolutely loved the end of the year metal lists, affectionately labeled by NCS as “Listmania”.

      • Xan

        My list this year will be posted begrudgingly. I’ve listened to nothing but new albums for the last four months and I still have about 90 albums to listen to. I already know the top five for certain. I don’t think anything I haven’t listened to will top them.

        • Edward #RIPNEGROD

          Mine is a wrap. I would consider one more swap but otherwise it’s done and in the bag. A couple late releases and albums I heard late are kinda getting the shaft in appropriate consideration, but, thems the bricks.

  • “Murder Castle” would be a siqqqqqq band name.

  • Tom Waits For Better Days

    A great review, streaming it today definitely

  • Really great review, Stockhausen. I’ve spun the album a couple times so far and while it’s definitely incredible I’m not sure how it stacks up to their debut. On the surface I think the songwriting and riffs have become much more clearly defined and hooky, but I feel like some of the spacy free parts that I loved on Atrophy are missing. Either way, no flushes for the review or the album.

    • Stockhausen

      Thank you lad. I haven’t spent as much time with Atrophy, but I think I lean toward the more focused craziness here. I can’t get enough of that opening section in The Great Unwashed.

  • just purchased. thanks for the review @Stockhausen:disqus!
    (and saw our friend @webb71:disqus on their bandcamp page, always brings a smile to my face!)

    • TrickleDownOvTacoKvltRiff

      We stand united for nothing in particular cept tasty jamz JIMMY J!!!

      • …that and dislike for Axl 🙂

        • TrickleDownOvTacoKvltRiff

          Ahhh yes, excellent point! The impetus for our current Utopian Shangrala. How quickly I forgot! hahaha

          • (Scene: McNulty’s family Thanksgiving meal, relatives all gathered ’round.)
            Mum: “I’m thankful that we’re all happy and healthy, here together in one place!”
            McNulty: “I’m thankful for all my Toilet Friends: a group of metalheads located all over the globe who have come together for the sake of the *flush*!”

          • TrickleDownOvTacoKvltRiff

            (Scene: McNulty’s family Thanksgiving meal, TDTR and relatives all gathered ’round.)

            TDTR: (after McNulties speech): wipes tear from eye with clown sleeve, grabs huge forkful of white meat off platter, spoons up a heaping pile of stuffing and says…”fuck yea man, that was beautiful and thanks for having me over! Please pass the green bean casserole and has anyone seen Dumb and Dumber two yet? I cant wait to see that shot it looks funny as hell!!”

          • McNulty: “Oh yeah guys, the clown that’s been sitting with us the past hour goes by the name TrickleDownTacoRiff! Please treat him like family.”

          • TrickleDownOvTacoKvltRiff

            TDTR: “Thanks Jimmy and pardon my french I haven’t been out in a while. Can I have another dinner roll?”

    • Stockhausen

      Oh sure der, don’tcha kno!

  • King Shit of Fuck Mountain

    I came here for the murder. And I don’t see any cunting murder.

  • Great review, great album. Also, I fucking love this band’s name.

    • does it describe your little doggie?

      • Haha, she couldn’t hurt a fly. And I mean that literally, she’s actually scared of small beetles and bugs.

  • CyberneticOrganism

    Agreed, excellent review

  • Hubert, Goat ov Doom (and Void

    The main riff in Mountain = Riff of the century

  • TrickleDownOvTacoKvltRiff

    I must hear this now and further investigate Mr Herman Mudgett…HOLY CRAP!

    • Stockhausen

      HH Holmes is one wacky, interesting dude.

      • TrickleDownOvTacoKvltRiff

        Diabolical…I love true crime. I can’t believe I never heard of him prior to your post.

  • VV.

    Great review, Stocky! Weird Death Forever.

    • Stockhausen

      DEATH TO NOT WEIRD DEATH.

  • That H.H Holmes building’s in Englewood (by far the murder capital of Chicago), ironically enough, and not very far from where I lived. So far as I can tell, it’s the only thing even resembling a tourist attraction in that area, which says alot for how fucked up Englewood actually is.

    • TrickleDownOvTacoKvltRiff

      YES-Englewood sucks! I grew up in Oak Park Ill KJ…My mom lives in the West town Humboldt park area on Fullerton.

      You still in the City?

      • Nah, I moved last October after 14 years. I’m in Newport News, VA now.

        • TrickleDownOvTacoKvltRiff

          Cool prob a nice change of pace I would imagine…

          • Yep, alot less shooty shooty, gangs, way cheaper, and it’s in a pretty large metro area of VA. And the weather’s way better. I still miss Chicago, but there’s alot of shit I don’t miss.

          • TrickleDownOvTacoKvltRiff

            Amen…shooty shooty is really bad in chytown now! Sounds like a win win!

      • Humboldt Park’s gotten a little bit better over the years, but the further west you go, the worse it gets. At least it’s got some good eats there.

        • TrickleDownOvTacoKvltRiff

          Yea your right my mom is right by the exit to the Kennedy..2500 block. Its much better now than in the 70’s and 80’s when I was a kid.

  • VV.

    Also, so stoked for this house show in December. ToH Souf meetup!

    • ToH SOUF IS GONNA FUCK YOU UP.

      • Lacertilian

        *cracks beer*

    • please elaborate…

      • VV.

        A number of us are converging on Denton in December to see these guys in a small house venue called Gatsby’s Mansion.

  • BLVCKBEVRD’S PERILʘVS FʘE
    • JWG

      Most entertaining part of that: how “insecure” is placed between hands held widely apart, as if to say “no really, it’s THIS big”.

      Because obviously, ‘truck’ is a total euphemism here.

      • BLVCKBEVRD’S PERILʘVS FʘE

        Actually the real point here is Giorgio Tsoukalos trying to show you how big an aliens penis is. After that makes him feel insecure, he must go roll the coal. In his UFO, i mean Saab.

  • KingPagliacciOvFlushMountain

    That cover art duped me into thinking this would be some sort of atmospheric-blackened-post-gazey sort of thing. Jimmies rustled. Great write up though Stocky.

  • CT-12

    Nice write up Stocky!