It’s been a good year for slightly disturbing, sci-fi influenced, electronic journeys into the dark side of the soul. The Haxan Cloak and 65daysofstatic have both released albums that trouble and delight, if not always in equal measure. Master sees Teeth Of The Sea throwing their hat into the ring and reaching for similar heights.
In the three years since the release of Your Mercury, their second album, the band has been pretty busy terrorising (and in some cases, irritating) audiences at various off-centre festivals and dingy venues. Master is perhaps less dense than their previous offering, but still possesses the ability to invoke terror and occasionally, irritate (not least on the throwaway spoken word interjections of Put Me On Your Shoulders So I Can See The Rats, which breaks the oppressive spell the band spends the preceding six tracks developing).
Despite these occasional forays, Master is a powerful album. Opening with Leder, a gurgling spoken word introduction uttered by an adequately creepy, insectoidal, robotic German, Teeth Of The Sea set the scene early. It’s an apocalyptic landscape populated with fire damaged androids, seething synths and an occasional flashback to the ’80s.
Reaper, from the band’s soundtrack to Neil Marshall’s film Doomsday, follows. A surprisingly low-key affair, it’s twitchy and a little paranoiac, but there’s always one eye on the dancefloor, as evidenced by an almost slo-mo payoff. There’s a ripping guitar solo thrown in for good measure too, although it’s almost crushed by the mechanical morphing stomp of the synths that drive the song onward.
The Servant continues down the soundtrack route with a spoken word scene setting introduction leading into a trumpet part that sounds like a deconstructed version of the Rocky theme tune. The city that the band describes might have been leveled, but there’s a triumphalism to the trumpet as it battles mosquito-like electro hums and dated synths.
Blackstrategy takes on an industrial feel with its battered metallic percussion and mechanical interjections roaring from the darkness. When it breaks into a dated keyboard frenzy at the midpoint it feels as if it could have quite easily have been plucked from the innards of Final Fantasy VII. There are hints of Coil to be found in altogether more delicate meanderings at the beginning of Pleiades Underground/Inexorable Master, whilst the latter half enters into the realm of Satan, and conjures up Slayer from the darkness.
The ambient washes of Siren Spectre go some way to balancing things out, finding a sweet spot between the gloom of The Terminator, the aquatic pulses of a child’s heartbeat in the womb, and shades of Ennio Morricone’s Westerns are hinted at ever so slightly. It’s not long before Teeth Of The Sea head back to industrial territory and the clanking techno of All Human Is Error returns to more terrifying, if slightly danceable territory.
Yet, they save the best till last, with Responder. A perfect coming together of everything Teeth Of The Sea are capable of, it’s an almost pastoral take on the notion of post-apocalyptic wasteland. Robotic voices, scattering electronic percussion, and the buzz of electrical circuits combine to create something quite cinematic in scope. Yet it’s the trumpet crying out over the introduction that packs the most emotional punch, hanging in the air like a half remembered take on The Last Post. When the track finally breaks into a floor filling electro stomp, there’s a sense of jubilation, but the sense of sorrow is carried forward nevertheless. It’s a breathtaking close to an album that is a significant achievement.