As composer Leonard Bernstein taught us in his televised lessons, music in equal temperament is rarely atonal in the literal sense. In fact, it often retains a certain hierarchy of notes, which is certainly the case with extreme metal intended to be pounding and powerful. With The Path Narrows, American trio Baring Teeth continues to come dangerously close to this theoretical atonality.
Dissonance is the aesthetic foundation of Baring Teeth’s work. Throughout the album, the melodic construction is made up of rough intervals such as minor seconds and augmented fourths. These elements are arranged in perpetually moving pieces, progressing without leaving room for the exact repetition of musical ideas. The drumming is nervous and technical, too changeable to nod for more than a few bars. The bass, remarkable for its harmonic play, wonderfully fills the little space left in the sound texture. The effect is utterly labyrinthine, requiring active listening to appreciate the particular flavor of such cacophony.
Still, the vocals carry the roaring energy of more conventional death metal, as does the heaviness of The Path Narrows‘ slower sections.
Since the historic contribution of Gorguts with their 1998 album Obscura, dissonant metal has gradually established itself as a sub-genre of extreme music. Clearly following in the footsteps of the Quebec pioneers, Baring Teeth nevertheless manages to offer an engaging listen with their fourth album, which could all too easily be reduced to yet another clone of the genre.