‘Tis the season for name changes and new albums. The Toothe, fresh off the heels of a much-needed name change from its former tangle — John Wilkes Boothe and The Black Toothe — debuts its new album, Talons EP, with a record release show on Friday, May 2, 9 p.m., at The Odditorium. Blot and Barn Cat also perform; $5.
Talons EP marks the band’s first release since co-producing a collaborative album with The Tills (who also recently ditched their old name, The Critters). Keeping in line with the band’s previous work, the new album blends modern Appalachian Americana with a reverence for the past, all with a heavy lean on southern Gothicism and theatrical highs and lows.
The chord progressions are empathetic and spiritually-tinged, as if simulating some pseudo-religious, postbellum revival. Others have the cheer of a high-Victorian sideshow. The band builds a foundation beneath layers of winding and increasingly intricate guitar melodies and trailing group harmonies. These rise and fall in unison, scarcely breaking. Singular vocals happen infrequently, making those appearances all the more savory.
In less than a half-hour, these six tracks manage to create a well of deep contradiction. They are, more or less, a clever, superficial veil for an ultimately contemptuous collection of songs.
Hardship, if not scorn, runs rampant through their lyrics. In “Wine-Dark,” a solitary figure becomes the source of poetic rebuttal: “I try to tell her that the child ain’t mine, but she don’t understand.”
In “Talons,” the album’s title track, the band takes similar aim at a former lover. The sweetness of the intro is matched and countered by a bitter turn shown after two quick stanzas: “Purple talons in the moonlight, what did you kill?”
“Like a dew drop, eviscerated by the heat of the day,” eases into the feeling of despair, only to cut deeper: “You took my love and put it to death.”
Each song builds speed and steam. Slow beginnings become steady forward marches matched by rises in the power of both the instruments and their voice. Just as a song seems about to break or tip into chaos of metallic fury, the instruments drop off as vocals gather at the bottom of a quiet choral reprise.