Review: Snakedriver, The Gnashing of Teeth (Self-Released, 2015)

The Gnashing of Teeth is the self-released debut full-length from Little Rock, AR's Snakedriver (featuring former Dead City vocalist Jeremiah Chandler), following a 2011 demo and a split with Laser Flames in 2012. The group's early material was occasionally blatantly sludgy, but seems to now be gravitating towards more of a straightforward metallic hardcore approach that retains hints of sludginess in the guitar tone.

Dominated by lots of chugging midpaced power chords and Jeremiah's highly effective, Bloodlet-esque vocals, tracks like the opener, "Howling Ape," wouldn't have been out of place on a Dead City record—which suits me just fine, as Dead City remains one of my favorite hardcore bands of the 2000s. "Reverse Damascus" is a perfect example of no nonsense, to the point metallic hardcore; as is "Bastard Son in Chains," which sneaks in some tremolo picking runs for good measure. They do change things up, though. "Sucker's Bet," for instance, has an unexpectedly rocked out swing to it; while "The Salivant" relies more heavily on tremolo picking before suddenly diving into some swampy ascending/descending runs for the bulk of the piece—perhaps the sludgiest moments herein.

Many bands would frontload an album with its strongest material. Snakedriver seems to have taken the opposite angle, however, with a damn strong run towards the end. Somehow, there's just more fire to the discernible rage of the final string of tunes.

The pounding rhythms of "Incessant Madness" immediately stand apart, and it turns out to be a powerful blend of their influences—even dropping some lightly melodic chord progressions that bring to mind another of Chandler's prior acts, First World. "Reign of the Slime" is another short burst of force, not unlike "Reverse Damascus" or "Bastard Son in Chains," but more explosive, with an excellent breakdown to boot. "Apex" is the longest track—the only one that tops four minutes—and its darker, lurching pace continues into closer "True Love," which branches out into an ominous clean passage leading into the album's final surge.

It sounds good, too. Tightly mixed so that everything's packed in together, the recording is thick without crossing over to muddy, and utilizes just the right amount of grit to hang onto the sludge factor. Lightly distorted bass blends in with the guitars, but still has chances to shine on its own, and the natural percussion is devoid of clicky, overprocessed bullshit.

I haven't seen the packaging, but it looks to be fairly straightforward. The lyrics deal with an array of anger and resentment at the mental anguish and hardships of life, dropping lines like, "This life's a joke, born and built to go up in smoke," or even sporadic "holy terror"-esque references to "set free your fiend," or further:

Insanity unfold wings and fly
The never-ending conflict of life
Lucifer from the heavens you fell
Defiant hardened hands will kill

It's a pretty quick run at nine tracks in just 26 minutes, but it's also a steal at only $10 for the LP, $5 digitally. Fans of the A389 Recordings camp: take note and don't let this one fly under the radar, 'cause it's right in line with that type of roster, and will more than likely deserve wider praise than it may receive.

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