Sharptooth – ‘Transitional Form’

By Ian Kenworthy

Sharptooth whip up a snapping, snarling swirl of feminist hardcore – they have a lot to say, and with new album ‘Transitional Forms’, they demand to be heard. In 2017 their debut album ‘Clever Girl’ made a big impression, hitting as hard with its message as it did with its riffs, proving they were a force to be reckoned with. Album number two sets their sights higher, aiming to take their music to a wider audience. Be under no illusions, you are going to want to hear what they have to say.

‘Say Nothing (In The Absence Of Content)’ opens the record in the most explosive and unrelenting fashion, immediately laying out the dark tone and blistering guitar sounds that will batter your ears over the course of these ten tracks. Guitarists Keith Higgins and Lance Donti operate in the realms of hardcore, but with every song here they offer a different take on the band’s sound. While ‘Hirudinea’ features a lighter, more punky flavour that harks back to their debut record, it contrasts with the darker palette favoured on more progressive songs such as ‘The Gray’. The shift in sound works in the band’s favour, with it quickly becoming apparent just how far the band have progressed – and the results are nothing short of stunning.

In many ways you can draw parallels with Knocked Loose, who share similar sonic ground and who also produced a strong debut album before using the follow-up to sharpen their sound. Sharptooth do this here by using breakdowns that are bolder, vocals that are more intense, and by favouring a much crisper and hard-edged sound. Despite the furious riffing, they use the space between instruments to add nuance to what is a quite pointed assault on the senses – and that’s before you take the band’s politics into account.

Lauren Kashan is a thrilling, powerful vocalist, and the performance captured here is very impressive. While she favours a throaty yell, she proves herself to be surprisingly versatile and throughout the album’s runtime she barks, snaps, speaks, snarls, and performs some ear-shredding shrieks on ‘Mean Brain’; she even dabbles in clean singing. It is all strikingly effective and a clear step up from her previous work.

On their debut album ‘Clever Girl’, Kashan unflinchingly addressed topics like rape on the harrowing ‘Left 4 Dead’ and made her feelings about the president clear on the equally unsubtle ‘Fuck You Donald Trump’. After which, you can guess how politically charged this record is going to be – and while not as directly confrontational as ‘Clever Girl’, the songs here don’t shy away from addressing pertinent issues. They’re no less angry, but for the most part, the arguments are presented in a more artistic and ironic way, retaining the biting message without having to rely on shock value. That said, ‘Hirudinea’ again provides the exception, as over music harking back to the sound of their first record she yells “you’re not a feminist just because you fucked one”, which feels a little blunt but still fits remarkably well.

When all the tracks are so thrilling, it’s hard to choose what stands out. Despite being the most restrained song here, ‘M.P.D.B. (Manic Pixie Dream Bitch)’ is built around huge groove and an almost Djent vibe. This makes it feel like the band are pushing themselves, and still hits significantly harder than anything they’ve recorded before. ‘Life On The Razor’s Edge’ also feels like they’re treading new ground. Its intro uses arpeggios to create an uneasy sense of foreboding, so when the drums finally arrive it sounds like the end of the world. Also notable is the breakneck ‘151’, which is almost catchy until it segues into a frighteningly effective breakdown where the guitars screech and scream like they’re being murdered. Finally, ‘Nevertheless (She Persisted)’ offers a more expansive sound by using lead guitars to paint over a wider canvas and teases with beautifully sung vocals, before bringing the album to a crushing close.

‘Transitional Forms’ is a bold and blistering hardcore album that improves on every single element of the band’s debut record, making for an intense and hugely satisfying experience. You will be hearing more from Sharptooth – and if there’s any justice, this album will see them take a place among the scene’s biggest names.

IAN KENWORTHY

 

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