Album Review #5: Sharptooth – Transitional Forms

Genre: Hardcore, Metalcore

Release Date: July 10, 2020

Almost three years after their debut LP, Clever Girl, Baltimore’s Hardcore quintet Sharptooth released their second LP, dubbed Transitional Forms, on 10th of July. As on their previous releases, they are vocal about topics such as feminism and lack of content in the hardcore scene. However, their musical style changed this time around and in this review, you will see whether or not it is worth picking up for old and new fans of this band. Enjoy.

Transitional Forms was produced by Brian McTernan, Paul Leavitt and Lance Donati. The former two already worked with artists like Hundredth, All Time Low and Turnstile and the latter is a band member, being responsible for the guitar and bass. Their experience shows over the course of this record, which is a a couple seconds short of 30 minutes.

Transition?

The album’s title hints at the evolution of this band. Sharptooth used to be more of a melodic hardcore band with lots of elements of punk but on this record, they lean more towards metalcore and the heavier side of hardcore. Thus, the band transitions to a heavier sound than before.

The opening track is called Life on The Razor’s Edge and illustrates this. It begins with an atmospheric, almost eery intro. Around one minute in, the drums and vocals join in and hit hard but at the same time, the song stays relatively calm. This serves as a buildup for the second half of the track, in which singer Lauran Kashan and the instrumentals go hard. Now at the latest, this record will grab your attention.

Say Nothing (In The Absence of Content) is the second track. It is quite representative of the band’s sound on this LP and probably for that reason, it served as the first single. It is more energetic than track one, however the vocals are relatively simplistic, probably in order to emphasise this song’s message, which I will address later. Say Nothing has some major Beartooth vibes, pre-dad rock Beartooth, more specifically, but a bit heavier. One of the track’s highlights is the second half with its pre-breakdown, mosh calls and breakdown, where Kashan takes a swing at uninspired bands and the lack of content in their lyrics: “Now this is the part of the song where we slow shit way down for you so you can all kill each other. It doesn’t even matter what I’m saying here anyway. Can you even understand a fucking word I say?” -Nice one.

Mean Brain is the third song. A sample about self-hate introduces the topic of this song: self-loathing. It is relatively slow and atmospheric, which makes it feel less dynamic than older songs of the band. Towards the end, the instrumentals pick up the pace and transition into an upbeat section, which is followed by a nice breakdown. This song merges the best of both worlds by bringing together atmospheric and dynamic sections.

Hirudinea, or leech is the name of track four, which is about toxic “supporters” of feminism, claiming to be feminist but not contributing to women’s equality. It is an aggressive song and feels much heavier than the old stuff of the band. There are some short breaks in between that emphasise the instrumentals and their heaviness even further. Sharptooth definitely seem to be moving away from their old sound but at the same time, they still address the same topics as earlier. They are the same band, just with a new sound.

This also applies to my personal favourite on this record, The Gray. In essence, this is old Sharptooth just heavier. The Gray is an atmospheric upbeat song with some melodic hardcore vibes and nice breakdowns. Not only the sound but also the lyrics are reminiscent of the band’s older songs, since they again address topics that they already considered on their first releases. In this song, Sharptooth deconstruct one-sided, binary distinctions that divide the world into black and white and they illustrate that life is grey and nuanced. -Definitely an interesting topic, which Sharptooth manage to tackle in a short and tangible way.

Evolution elaborates on the album’s theme of progression, which is also reflected by its artwork and title that are reminiscent of evolution. The upbeat track with guest vocals by Anti-Flag‘s Justin Sane revolves around progressing as a species and opposing the oppression of marginalised groups of people. It kicks off as an upbeat song but slows down around 50 seconds in. This leads up to a breakdown that is quite reminiscent of older bands from around ten years ago, however in a good way.

153 again leans more towards the band’s older releases. Lauren sings more than on the preceding tracks, which gives this song punk-rock vibes. However, it is still heavier than just punk. The pre-breakdown is really similar to Alpha Wolf and there are some hectic riffs in there, preparing you for the brutal breakdown that is bound to follow. That breakdown is potentially the hardest one on this album and it is really enjoyable, despite this song’s general style not really being my cup of tea. The lyrics deal with the unfortunately oftentimes negative reception of feminism and of women speaking up for themselves, maintaining the political tone of this LP.

The Southern Strategy is quite dynamic and frantic riffs take turns with slower sections. It is a perfect mosh-track with some nice breakdowns. In a final shift, the drums accelerate giving this song a nice and interesting touch. The Southern Strategy was an attempt of Republicans to appeal to potential voters in the southern states of the US through appeals to racism, which resulted in the Republican party pushing further to the right. In this song, Sharptooth depict the way that conservatives, such as the Republicans, try to preserve the status quo since they profit from it, abusing and oppressing others in the process. These are again some nice and interesting lyrics and some hardcore bands might want to take notes and learn from this band. Here, Kashan perfectly captures the frustration that one might develop when faced with conservatives and their policies. Thus, this song fits perfectly in the modern day and age.

The penultimate track M.P.D.B (Manic Pixie Dream Bitch) is yet another heavy banger. It reflects the role that is forced upon women in society, that of mothers, daughters and essentially as emotional support responsible for “emotional labour”. The singer rejects this idea and makes her point very clear. M.P.D.B is an angry song by an emancipated woman and it makes the band’s stance on topics like sexism very clear.

Transitional Forms ends with Nevertheless (She Persisted). Like the opening track, it is really atmospheric but a bit more dynamic. This song’s instrumentals really remind me of some very old Bring Me The Horizon and to some extent of their second album Sucide Season but you have to listen for yourselves. It alternates between slow, atmospheric sections and heavier upbeat parts and towards the end, the song culminates in a heavy outro, which hits all the more heavily because of the comparably soft bridge that builds up to it. Nevertheless rounds up the album’s lyrical content and the role of it in the band’s evolution, since they are blatantly moving away from their old sound and towards a heavier, more atmospheric style. It is about moving on despite feeling unable to do so and about the struggles that this brings with it. The lyrics are great but to me, this was the weakest track on this album, simply because the style of this song is not really my cup of tea but I will talk about this in more detail in the following chapter. It is not a bad song, it just did not really put me on the edge of my seat.

Grade and Final Thoughts

I was really stoked when Sharptooth announced this record. It was not a disappointment but did not blow me away either. I give it a 7,5/10. Nonetheless. The songs are on point but the band’s new style just isn’t really my cup of tea to be honest. However, that does not take away from the quality of this record.

Despite the band changing towards a sound that I do not enjoy as much as their old one, I still dig their lyrics and the quality of their music. Some of the breakdowns on this LP are just sick, especially the one in 153 but overall, the record just did not blow me away. Despite that, Sharptooth are not just another metalcore band but add a certain depth to their work in form of their great lyrics, which many bands in this genre lack. So, should you listen to this album? As fans of metalcore you should. The following overview might help.

You better listen to it if you like the following:

  • great lyrics
  • solid metalcore
  • a nice atmosphere

You might wanna avoid it if you dislike:

  • solid metalcore without much innovation
  • a transition from melodic hardcore to metalcore

Conclusion:

With Transitional Forms, Sharptooth released a solid new record. However, their new style does not really match my taste, so I did not enjoy this as much as I hoped I would. If you are into melodic hardcore and the band’s older sound, this may not be for you but if you like metalcore that is similar to old Beartooth but a bit heavier, this record might be just what you need. Also, if you are like me and put a great emphasis on a band’s lyrics, you are not going to be disappointed by this album.

I think you should check them out, since the band provides some necessary representation and addresses relevant topics that are overlooked by most bands in this genre. This record is solid but whether or not you are going to love it depends on your personal preference. Even if I don’t dig the band’s new sound as much, I am going to support them and I would love to see them live some time. At least check out one or two songs and give this band a try, it is worth it.

As always, thanks for reading.

-sovlpvnk

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Published by sovlpvnk

This is my personal blog about culture and sustainability. It is mainly concerned with topics that I'm interested in, mostly the alternative music scene and its ethics as well as LGBTQIA+ -related topics and veganism. I post my content in English and German.

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