Genres come and go in rock music, but few are as stubbornly unchanging as industrial. For close to thirty years, the same clanking, grinding, blooping noises have come together to create some of rock & roll’s most memorable songs and artists, and many of those artists are still blending the same elements today. Into that formidable pedigree trudge newcomers 3Teeth, aiming to take their place among titans such as Nine Inch Nails, Rammstein and Ministry. They have some impressive endorsements lined up behind them, most notably being hand-picked by Tool as the opening act for their 2016 tour. So does their second full-length (and first since their big break), Shutdown.exe, rise to the task?
Opener “Divine Weapon” starts with a haunting chant and massive echoing drums, shortly joined by a signature industrial staple: guitars digitized to sound mechanical in nature. When the vocals enter near the two-minute mark, they’re heavily distorted and vicious, snarling and screeching through digitizing effects similar to the guitar processing. It’s a good start, even if it feels a bit like a 4-minute intro rather than a song. “Pit Of Fire” is an album highlight, with a grinding riff that could fit comfortably on one of Rob Zombie’s darker cuts, and a breathy, spoken-word rasp pairing with ethereal cleans on the verses before the chorus drops with the heaviest moment of the record. Single “Atrophy”, on the other hand, is forgettable. It borrows a lot of the same elements that make “Pit Of Fire” good, but doesn’t put them together with anywhere near the same intensity. The vocal processing is so thick it actual robs the vocals of any power they might have, especially on the chorus (a trend that continues throughout the album). “Oblivion Coil” is another standout, with a more much electronic hook from the Downward Spiral playbook, although the warbling vocals don’t quite gel the way they could have.
“Shutdown” is another NIN-inspired piece, a bit more dance-oriented than “Oblivion Coil”, but less hooky. It isn’t bad, but it is relentless monotonous, and burns out before the end of its 4-minute run time. “Degrade” leans back to the heavy side of the band, with a simple, pummeling 80s drumbeat, but the riff once again is a one-note affair that doesn’t really evolve or lead into anything more impressive. “Tower Of Disease” nails the token industrial vibe, with a riff that mimics a warning siren, but the chorus falls flat. “Tabula Umbra” is an instrumental song filled with sporadic samples, but is actually one of the best songs on the record, with the lack of vocals giving the paranoid, throbbing music room to mutate and expand, reaching a crescendo that surpasses any chorus on the record. Speaking of, “Voiceless” has the first truly catchy chorus of the album, but struggles to build any momentum throughout the verses.
“SlaveGod” is a little slower, but still manages to be one of the heavier songs on the album. The vocal processing drowns the verses a little, but the feral screams on the chorus are impressive and make this worth at least a listen or two, especially paired with the screeching guitars mimicking a second harmonized scream. “Insubstantia” is listless and paranoid, but doesn’t go much of anywhere. “B.O.A.”’s chorus almost saves it, with a horror-themed chorus riff providing a decent hook, but the verses are unbearably bland. Closer “Away From Me” isn’t much better. The chorus is anti-climactic and monotone (once again, the vocal processing is a huge detriment), robbing a decent verse build of its power.
3Teeth show flashes of genius on Shutdown.exe, but three recurring problems drain the album of its potential. First and foremost, whenever vocalist Alexis Mincolla isn’t tearing into throat-rending screams, his delivery is drab and bland. This is fine in moderation, as it can help set the listless mood much industrial aims for, but the effect it has here is to make the album a slog in between his energetic moments. Second, the band’s music amplifies that monotonous drag, with virtually no variance in tempo, tone, or feel between any of the 13 tracks offered. Lastly, while there are hooks that leap out from time to time, they’re surrounded by tired, trudging “setup” verses that feel like filler. The end result is a frustrating album that is held back by its own ambition. 3Teeth have potential, but they very rarely achieve it on Shutdown.exe.