Last year, a collective mindset of dread and fear took hold of humanity, as we were all directed to separate and isolate from one another. A dark veil pulled its way across the earth, seemingly enshrouding any sort of hope for positive transformation. However, this didn’t mean all hope was lost. As shelter-in-place orders went into effect, adaptation became the new means of survival. It was out of these conditions that metal/hardcore collaborative Tooth and Claw was born.
Initially sparked by the musical ideas of guitarist Scott Crouse (Earth Crisis/SECT), Tooth and Claw also brought together vocalist Daniel Austin (Die Young), guitarist James Chang (SECT, Undying, Catharsis), and drummer Cameron Joplin (Magnitude, Ecostrike). Operating across multiple states and multiple studios, the band connected via file share during the pandemic to piece together their seething debut, Dream of Ascension.
Released on May 21 via Good Fight Music, Dream of Ascension sees the hardcore-minded members contributing to nine viciously heavy songs, jam-packed with metallic implementation and fuming aggression. Throughout the record, a take-no-prisoners attitude triggers thundering riffs, colossal breakdowns, and a venomous vocal performance, making it one hostile sounding beast.
On the other hand, a haunting presence comes to life through dark melodies and evocative guitar leads, while a metaphysical approach to lyrical content awakens a listening experience far more spiritually-inspired than your average metalcore album.
There’s an overall transcendent nature to Dream of Ascension that begins to come to life through the faint, eerie keys that accompany the anticipating build up of the self-titled opener. As the song erupts with a heavy, primal pulse, Tooth and Claw unleash a collective fury through the speakers that spills over into lead single, “Your Crucifix.”
Better known for his major contributions to the more groove-oriented hardcore sound developed by Earth Crisis throughout the ‘90s, guitarist Scott Crouse lets loose lethal chugs throughout “Kiss of Night” and “Arrival.”
The band employs a commanding combination of demolishing power chords and clean riffing, with the hypnotizing powerhouse “Seventy Times Seven” perhaps being the most impactful representation of this fusion. As the band generates an ominous mood over the course of these songs, vocalist Austin experiments with divine-natured vocal invocations.
It’s through that experimentation that Austin channels a mystic presence, both vocally and lyrically, throughout Dream of Ascension. Inner-rage comes firing out of his vocal cords in the form of searing snarls, delivering every single scream with raw energy and vehemence.
Not only does he choose to communicate through screams, but also by way of mantra in “Spiritual Lust” and through the deep-voiced chanting in “Ravage.” A heavy use of metaphorical phrases fueled by his introspective impulses, allows for Austin to dig deep, addressing the collective human conscience from a primal perspective.
As much as this album is heavy, hints of death metal and thrash cross over to bring elements of speed into the mix. Thrashing tendencies are enforced in both “Time’s Desire” and “Torn In Half,” where cymbal grabs and lacerating string work reinforce the band’s raging compulsions.
Overall, Tooth and Claw is one ferocious sounding collaboration. While towering grooves pummel forth with intensity, thought-provoking words work to uncover a higher understanding of our purpose. The members involved in this project work together to expand not only their musical boundaries, but their mental boundaries, as well. With Dream of Ascension being born out of a very dark time, its dynamic layers reveal something completely pissed off, yet empowering.