Album Review: Sharptooth - 'Transitional Forms'

9 July 2020 | 11:37 am | Staff Writer
Originally Appeared In

Fight music with a message.

More Sharptooth More Sharptooth

Admittedly, I wasn’t quite sold on Sharptooth with their 2017 debut album, ‘Clever Girl.’ I got a chance to catch them live at that year’s Warped Tour and thought they kicked a whole lot of ass, presenting crucial social messages as well, something about the actual record just didn’t completely click with me. While most of the music was fine, I found ‘Clever Girl’ to be bogged down by less-than-stellar production, as well as some downright cringe inducing vocal deliveries, despite the incredibly important messages that they carried. This made Sharptooth a band that I wanted so badly to get into, but could never find a way to make it work. Having pretty almost given up on liking them, another three years have since trudged on and Sharptooth are now on the cusp of dropping sophomore effort, ‘Transitional Forms.’ Will this be the moment that I finally start to love Sharptooth? Five words: count me the fuck in. This band have practically transformed from their first album!

I must immediately address the particular factor behind 'Transitional Forms' that really cemented it as an excellent release for me; the production is some of the best that I've heard on any recent hardcore/metalcore LP. Hell, maybe ever. ‘Transitional Forms’ is perfectly imperfect: it's raw, loud, messy, and exquisitely beefy. Every instrument and layer is slotted perfectly together like puzzle pieces with one another in such a deeply satisfying manner. It is a combination of the incredible production work and the musical imperfections that make me feel like I'm sitting in some random garage with them, listening to a young hardcore band jam out some punishing chugs and killer breakdowns. I don’t know whether ‘Transitional Forms’ was recorded live or not, but it sure sounds like it. It also does what few bands in this genre can actually pull off well: reflecting the high energy of their live shows. Look, this is something I could gush about for ages, but let’s talk about the songwriting, lest I never shut up,

Transitional Forms’ is a grimy, filthy cacophony of brutal chugs, huge pit-calls, angry beatdowns and power chords. This record is pure breakdown bliss, murdering you with brute force and propelling you into mosh heaven. The instruments all come together in such a brilliant, cohesive way to create truly gripping song craft, giving each member their opportunity to shine. Take ‘Hirudinea’ (meaning "bloodsuckers"), which opens up with these ugly, dissonant guitar shrieks and choppy chugs, before unleashing an onslaught of ultra-heavy riffage and pounding drums. The heavier moments on ‘Transitional Forms’ put other artists in this weird in-between core genre to shame, bringing fight riffs to an entirely new level. Final single ‘The Gray’ may fool you with its ominous, brooding intro and reverby, detuned guitars, but make no mistake; this whole thing fuckin' slams! The tense and stupidly energetic verses on that particular track sound like something straight out of the early 2000's, but in the best way possible. Shit, Sharptooth may as well have held up a sign that reads “we love Iowa by Slipknot” because ‘The Gray’ absolutely reeks of that influence, but in a fantastic manner.

Don't miss a beat with our FREE daily newsletter

Something that is particularly fantastic about ‘Transitional Forms’ is Sharptooth’s keen ability to throw a wrench into the mix every now and again. On a typical hardcore/metalcore record, you probably won’t find anything but heavy bangers littering the first four or five songs, but Sharptooth had other plans; they slow things down on track three, with the sparser and darker ‘Life on the Razor’s Edge’ being a refreshing mix of ominous tones, ambient distortion and subtle, reverse-delay guitars. Elsewhere, Sharptooth go for broke and pull directly from Every Time I Die’s playbook with the spunky punk rock-ish ‘153,’ featuring thick, juicy bass grooves that perfectly intertwine with vocalist Lauren Kashan’s vocals, switching between raspy and classic metal singing. ETID would be proud. All before Kashan delivers an absurdly long low scream, ushering in the most ignorant-sounding breakdown of the lot. A definite highlight!

Speaking of Kashan, while each individual member has their time in the spotlight at some point or another on ‘Transitional Forms,’ it's Kashan that shows the most growth and power on this blazing LP. Kashan gives some of the most powerful vocal deliveries I have heard in years from a hardcore band. Whether it be the piercing shrieks at the tail end of ‘Mean Brain,’ the wickedly impressive low screams and strange, rhythmic cackling on ‘M.P.D.B (Manic Pixie Dream Bitch),’ or even the insanely Southern hardcore singing on ‘153’, you can tell that she means every single word. I also don’t think I have ever heard a vocalist improve this much in the space between two records as much as Kashan has done between ‘Clever Girl’ and ‘Transitional Forms.' Credit where credit is due!

Another great aspect of this record is the magnificent feminist and equally personal and political lyricism that's at the forefront of Sharptooth's music. Huh, you don't want to hear bands talk about real world issues through their music just because you want to "escape"? Put on The Wiggles or something then, loser. One of the things I love most about Kashan’s lyrics is how dynamic they are: going from satirical and quirky to somber and depressing in the blink of an eye. I cannot mention the lyricism on ‘Transitional Forms’ without mentioning the absolutely hilarious opening track on this record; ‘Say Nothing (In The Absence of Content)’ not only rips instrumentally, but has some of the most self-aware and comedic lyrics I have ever heard in a metalcore song. Though they're on-point and relevant and never once feel ham-fisted. This song brilliantly covers the dryness of many different genres of music, and how stale and repetitive their themes and messages are becoming. Shit, the track literally opens with “this is a song about nothing,” perfectly poking fun at the acclaimed “lyricists” in the world of heavy music. The whole breakdown section is another beast of its own, but I’ll leave you to experience that for yourself above.

The Gray’ strikes a more serious chord, opening up a conversation about America's utterly broken mental healthcare system, with lines like “but this is what we’re told; they strip us down to diagnoses, trauma, and the things that we have seen, but there is so much more to me” tearing into therapists and psychologists who fail to even crack the surface level of the patients, the very people, that they deal with. ‘153’ is likely the most important set of lyrics of the entire record, considering today’s societal climate. (I say ‘societal’ and not ‘political’ because the MeToo movement isn't some political pawn). This track rips into rape apologists and the absolute brainlets who incessantly scream “innocent until proven guilty!” down the throats of rape survivors who make the extremely brave choice to come forward publicly with their stories. Often because nothing actually proceeds when taken to law enforcement. This is an issue that's rampant within heavy music of late too, as we see blindly loyal fans suckle at the tit of Austin Carlisle and Chris Fronzak in defense of bands simple because they like the music they're apart of. ‘153’ wonderfully highlights these people as the pathetic scumbags they are. Here’s hoping they never cease outing themselves as garbage human beings.

Nevertheless, this would not be a proper album review by yours truly if I didn’t properly criticize the moments that I felt were a bit weaker on ‘Transitional Forms.' Particularly the album's last three tracks. The album begins to stutter and lose its footing somewhat towards its rather unsatisfying conclusion, ending with three seemingly underwritten cuts that don’t come anywhere close to the powerhouse seven songs before them. For instance, ‘The Southern Strategy’ is particularly uninteresting, featuring aimless sparse, mathy riffing and tempo changes. It is these few moments that sadly kill the huge momentum built on the awesome first half and a but of ‘Transitional Forms,’ leaving a rather confusing taste in my mouth when the album rings out. Regardless, these few songs don’t necessarily ruin the album in any major way (and the band's core message and thematic heart is still present), and the first seven tracks are just too goddamn brilliant for me to shrug off.

Going into ‘Transitional Forms,’ it was an entirely unexpected and extraordinarily pleasant experience. This sophomore record took my iffiness on the band’s previous debut work and hurled it out the fucking window, fully grasping me in its’ unforgiving, indomitable arms. It hits every nail perfectly on the head, both in terms of loud, brash hardcore and mosh-ready songwriting and in the direct and timely political lyricism. In my eyes, ‘Transitional Forms’ cements Sharptooth as an absolutely essential new band in the modern hardcore and metalcore scene. Thank you for the kick in the ass, Sharptooth; I needed that and I’ll be sure not to underestimate you in the future. This is mosh-laden, hectic fight music with plenty of important social mental-health messages and pro-femme energy alike to share. Given the state of flux our world is in, angry and relevant thought-provoking music like this is maybe more than ever.

Say Nothing (In The Absence of Content)

Mean Brain

Life on the Razor’s Edge


The Gray



The Southern Strategy

M.P.D.B (Manic Pixie Dream Bitch)

Nevertheless (She Persisted)

'Transitional Forms' is out Friday, July 10th: