Pushing Rope

Cleanteeth refer to themselves as “beard impregnating doom metal.” I’m not sure what exactly they mean by that. If this genre tag is a victim of the hyphen thief, it means that their music makes beards pregnant, a prospect which does not initially appeal to me. If not, they mean that their doom metal impregnates faces, which then sprout beards after having been subjected to their music. In either case, their performance on this record neither encourages me to subject my beard to any sort of impregnation, nor did it add to my mane. 

I can’t figure out if Cleanteeth is serious about what they do. The opening track is actually a very good sludge/doom track that brings some serious heavy. But its title is “Blame Canada,” which, if I remember correctly, was a fresh idea in 1999. The only time I actually laughed was on “Shitbreather” when the vocalist shouts, “You’re covered in bacteria!” which sounds like an insult, although in the final analysis it is true of everyone and everything on the planet earth. Unfortunately, that was the only time I was amused. The silly song titles like “French Kissing Alexander Hamilton” and “Sexual Moustache” are gimmicky, and no other moments stood out as particularly funny.

Musically, their success is equally scattershot. Although there are some legitimately heavy moments, as in “Blame Canada,” many of the riffs chug around aimlessly with low-end power chords, giving off an unfavorable whiff of nu-metal. Haphazard ambient and glitchy tracks add nothing to the atmosphere or the overall effect of the album. Nothing goes together, so that the whole thing ends up sounding like wasted space, and left me wondering what the point was.

Metal is often labeled as stupid music for meatheads. All stereotypes have root in certain truths that may or may not represent the majority of cases, and certainly a lot of metal lacks a certain amount of intelligence and is intended for people who also lack it. It’s always nice to see musicians not taking themselves seriously (Lord knows that’s a rarity) but the ambiguous tag, “beard impregnating doom metal,” is representative of the lack of intelligence and coherence displayed on this record. It indicates a group of musicians who, despite having mastery over their instruments and production, don’t have “it.” Metal is an essence, and no amount of bludgeoning sound and buzz-word genre tagging can make up for its absence.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by J. D. Anderson
February 4th, 2014


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