Level Plane has branched out in recent years, releasing records from diverse acts such as the One A.M. Radio and Malady, but the label’s heart and soul has always been messy, progressive hardcore. Formed in 1997 by Greg Drudy, a founding member of monumental screamo band Saetia and current member of equally influential Hot Cross, the label has made quite a name for itself. Essential releases from Racebannon, Kaospilot, Pg. 99 and Envy have established Level Plane as one of the most important labels of our time.
Enter Bucket Full of Teeth, the grandiose brainchild of Brad Wallace and William Killingsworth, alumni of the seminal early-’90s hardcore outfit Orchid. Originally intended to be a somewhat structured power-violence project, the group soon progressed into a monstrously ambitious studio project that combined elements of death-metal, ambient and stoner rock. After releasing three consecutive seven-inches (I, II, and III on Youth Attack) and playing only six shows, the band began work on new material in 2002. Three years later, IV proves to be an epic and challenging hardcore record that fits perfectly on Level Plane’s roster.
The sheer terror afflicted by Bucket Full of Teeth’s sound stands out immediately. After the introductory rumble of “Imperfect Vibrations,” “Capital Distracts and Imprisons” explodes with frantic blast beats that rapidly switch to a death-metal breakdown and then to (Level Plane label mate) Breather Resist-like metal-core. This sort of blink-and-you’ve-missed-it intensity is prevalent throughout IV — each song shifts through an arsenal of forms in often less than a minute. These spurts of aggression are usually followed by passages of ambiance, which weave the songs together, as exemplified on the brilliant shift from “The Path” to “Comfort Made Us Passive.”
This sort of lightning-quick changes typically garners comparisons to the Locust, but Bucket Full of Teeth’s diversity of sound proves they are of a different breed. They’re also more passionate than their bug-eyed peers, as their lyrics (though scarce on this sixteen-minute album) can attest: on “A Hopeful Sound,” vocalist AJ Barillaro pleads, “Take hold of these moments, and our passion/ Each success could usher a thousand more/ Each failure still triumphs over silence.”
IV is reported to be the final release for Bucket Full of Teeth, its members dispersing back to their other bands, including Ampere, Wolves and Transistor Transistor. For a band with so much experimental enthusiasm to quit just as they begin to make an impact is undeniably disappointing. But Bucket Full of Teeth has packed IV with enough aural progression to encourage repeated listens for a long time.