Last year, it seemed as if the world stood still. Communities around the world went out of service, as shelter-in-place orders went into effect. A little over a year later, and we’re all still dealing with the aftermath of the pandemic. However, what managed to keep operating throughout this period of time were the creative, musical minds of Scott Crouse (Earth Crisis/SECT) and Daniel Austin (Die Young).
The formation of metal/hardcore collaborative Tooth and Claw, saw those two, James Chang (SECT, Undying, Catharsis) and Cameron Joplin (Magnitude, Ecostrike), connecting via file share during the dreadful pandemic, to create an outlet for seething aggression. The members banded together to contribute their instrumental capabilities on nine viciously heavy songs for their debut album Dream of Ascension, out May 21 via Good Fight Music.
Known for his colossal contributions to the more groove-oriented hardcore sound developed by Earth Crisis throughout the ’90s, guitarist Scott Crouse began piecing together material that would be used for Tooth and Claw early last year.
“I consider starting a new project when it seems like the songs I’m writing don’t really fit the identity of the other bands I do,” says Crouse. “SECT and Earth Crisis are very different animals than Tooth and Claw, and these songs needed their own heading. With Tooth and Claw I get to explore territory that just wouldn’t work with the other bands.”
Crouse reached out to Die Young vocalist, author, and vegan powerlifter, Daniel Austin, to build on his musical ideas. Shortly after quarantine kicked in, Austin received a surprise email from Scott.
“The email said he had a couple of songs he wanted to send me to check out, and he asked if I’d be interested in doing a new project with him,” Austin says. “I told Scott ‘yes’ without even hearing the tracks. Earth Crisis was my introduction to hardcore, straight edge, and veganism when I was 14. To say they changed my life is not an exaggeration. I consider myself lucky to be a part of this project.”
Musically, Tooth and Claw represents something faster and heavier than anything the two musicians have worked on in the past (respectively).
“I’ve learned to understand and appreciate a fast part a bit more now,” says Crouse. “I grew up loving the crossover thrash genre mainly, so that was a lot of mid-tempo, groove kind of stuff, fast parts didn’t really do it for me until much later. I think that’s one of the things that feels a bit freeing with Tooth and Claw— I’ve loosened my belt a little.”
“I always tried to avoid certain things because I felt they were very genre specific,” Crouse continues. “But on this record, I really let that go and tried to embrace certain genre tropes instead. I don’t really like when things are too contrived, but I did think things like, ‘OK, time for a death metal riff’ a handful of times while writing this.”
Given the metal nature and compositions of the songwriting, both Crouse and Austin agreed that the lyrical vision for this project “called for deeply symbolic, metaphorical lyrics.”
“More introspection, less declaration,” says Austin. “This album is the first time I’ve tried to explore feelings with a sense of mysticism as a songwriter. That’s what the title Dream of Ascension refers to—something metaphysical, a calling. A call to survival, a call to overcome.”
Working on the vision of the band with Scott, and having these songs to explore psychological landscapes with, was a real lifesaver for Austin at the time.
“The George Floyd tragedy happened not too long into the pandemic, plus the 2020 shit-show of an election cycle that exacerbated tensions, and I think the whole country’s mental health went even further down the shitter,” Austin says. “Everyone seemed isolated and angry. I did my best to communicate something cathartic about the psychological pain of this human era.”
“Tooth and Claw does not really have a mission other than to write the most vicious and emotion-evoking songs we can write;” Austin concludes. And that is exactly what the band achieves on Dream of Ascension.
Watch the video for “Your Crucifixion” here:
Photo courtesy of Tooth and Claw.