Artist: Mouthbreather – Self-Tape [2023]

Artist: Mouthbreather
Album: Self Tape

Like Tallah, Omertà and even some slightly more…conventional…artists like Ocean Grove, Mouthbreather find themselves positioned squarely in the crossroads defined by chaotic, pummeling math-and-metalcore, spastic nu metal and high-octane post-hardcore (among other things–apparently it’s called gadget metal? I guess I’m old now). Despite the niche nature of this cross-section of styles and genres, there’s no doubt that its been steadily gaining popularity, leaning on the nostalgic familiarity with some of the more aggressive bands from nu metal’s heyday just as much as it leans on the ever-growing hunger to feel that “wow, I’ve never heard anything like that before” shock—and boy, does Mouthbreather excel at that part. Self Tape is the follow-up to the band’s critically acclaimed release, I’m Sorry Mr. Salesman—and it demonstrates how much more refined the group are, but also how unpredictable they can be. Packing everything from a cacophonous slew of crushing breakdowns to mind-melting riffs and moments of austere—but off-putting—serenity, Self Tape feels like the vision that powered Mr. Salesman fully realized—more than just refined, but completed, and it makes Mouthbreather a band that should not be discounted from your 2023 yearly round-up.

Whether its the jarring introductory track “Ethical Hunting” or the bouncy, groovy “I Know Best,” Mouthbreather don’t slack for a second when it comes to bringing aggression and scathing bitterness to the forefront of their dynamic. “Ethical Hunting” on its own bears enough menace and misanthropy for the entire release, driven by pulverizing percussion with dissonant, grizzly guitars and sludgy bass overtop—and that’s even before the stuttering salvo of breakdowns that drives “You Try to Die” kick in, or the listener is flattened beneath “Shotgun Funeral.” The band use piercing feedback taken in stark juxtaposition against ten-ton chugs and the ever-present proclivity to groove as weapon of choice, all finished off with a raw, grating vocal approach that sacrifices technically impressive range for a monstrous intensity that tears at the listener’s senses. “Shotgun Funeral” especially is a manic dive into murderous rage, using a sprawling array of techniques to demonstrate their ability to get deviously heavy—and all the while, vocals that range from a gritty scream to raw-throated yell ramp up that primal intensity, pushing the listener’s blood pressure higher and higher as though Self Tape was really just an IV of Epinephrine pumping away.

Mouthbreather—who are arguably at their best when they’re at their heaviest—are also no slackers when it comes to punchy groove and intangible weirdness. “I Know Best” is a stellar example of their ability to channel hardcore and groove metal into their gadget metal toolkit. Percussion steals the show here, with vocals not far behind. Other songs—like the record’s closing and titular track—are a lesson in serenity. This track takes the horrific (but, like, in a good way) roller coaster that was the preceding twenty minutes and puts in on ice, cold-turkey snapping the listener out of a hellscape and into something ethereal—which is about as kind as it is off-putting, as the entire time the listener first forays through the track, they’ll find themselves on constant edge, wondering when the other shoe will drop and they’ll plunged back into sonic disarray.

Self Tape is a stunning release. It doesn’t have the same off-the-wall weirdness that Mr. Salesman so proudly boasted, but it is certainly still beyond quirky, and channels the same experience in a more stream-lined and digestible package. Mouthbreather are heavy, uncomfortable and above all, they’re about as energetic as the Energizer Bunny hopped up off of a brick of cocaine dissolved in a cup of whatever your favorite espresso beverage is. Self Tape is a sinister experience that defies conventional genre classification, instead demanding that the listener subject themselves to the intensity it contains and figure out what’s going on as they go alone.

For Fans Of: Tallah, Code Orange Kids, Omertà, Ocean Grove
By: Connor Welsh