The year 2020 was tough before the COVID-19 pandemic set in, and the rampant misinformation that has spread around the world through means like social media has frequently exacerbated the problems. Individuals who could work to stem at least parts of the issues that have left people struggling might not even acknowledge that the problems exist in the first place because of this misinformation. On their new EP Misinformed, the Pennsylvania-based, chaotic metalcore/hardcore group Toothless deliver a raging confrontation with the rampant problem of misinformation. In line with a classic punk and hardcore spirit, the band rush headfirst into a stand-off with this real issue, and on Misinformed, Toothless make their vigorous energy feel markedly fresh.
“I think personally that I started becoming attuned to things like this through bands with political messages, like System of a Down or Rise Against,” the band’s vocalist Travis Antoniello says. “That’s probably what lit the spark for me to dig deeper and dive into historical documentaries, literature and things of that sort. The last few years have been extremely eye-opening to how vulnerable we really are to the weaponization of misinformation. The fact that a room full of people across the world can start riots in a different country by using social media says a lot.”
The band’s confrontation with these issues hits hard. On the song that closes Misinformed, which is called “Timeline: Eroded” and clocks in at just over five minutes, Antoniello pointedly sings: “Waging war against intellect/ Holding onto what little’s left/ We’ve written history on one single page/ Only to watch it wash it all away.”
“It’s definitely not something that can change overnight,” Antoniello continues. “We have to at least start with shining a light on it so we can address it. Once there is awareness that information may be biased, there can be mindfulness of its intent. We can encourage people to learn from history and recognize patterns. We can encourage them to dig deeper into things and not just believe the first thing they hear.”
The Sounds of Misinformed
Toothless have definitely got the musical chops to back up these thematic ambitions. “The Neighbors,” which opens Misinformed, veers dramatically from big, booming blasts of percussive riffing into frantic, mathcore-esque musical freakouts in which the band sound like they’re leaping across the sonic spectrum over and over, sending listeners for a whirl. Throughout the whole mix, there’s a real beastly hardcore heaviness, even as the band devolve into mind-boggling wildness.
“Toothless has always tried to have a pretty energetic live performance, and we felt that our earlier work doesn’t necessarily convey that vibe on record, at least not as much as we were hoping,” the group explains. “With this release, we really wanted to try and write something that we felt drove home the feel that we go for on stage. So generally: more aggression, more frantic and dissonant parts, and writing in a way to try and give things more overall impact.”
Misinformed delivers big time on that promise. The sheer volume of the energy packed into this release from the very first moments feels thrilling.
Noting that they “wanted this EP to have a natural flow that made sense when listened to as a whole” in terms of both variety and “a defined beginning, middle/climax, and end,” the band explains: “As far as the sound development process goes, it all kind of happens pretty naturally with us. We do have some general ideas that we adhere to, like trying to incorporate the more dissonant/mathcore-ish parts, but in a way that makes them more memorable and digestible in the context of a song. For the most part, though, we don’t spend too much time thinking about it and tend to just let things happen organically.”
Chaotic Metalcore Lives On
The band, which apparently has got a first full-length album in development, operates within a strong tradition of very powerful music that lands with both striking chaos and startling heaviness. The Chariot and Every Time I Die are among the notable torchbearers that the group mentions. They call The Chariot, which was led by the multitalented Josh Scogin, “hands down one of the best bands when it comes to writing noisy, chaotic music that you’ll never forget,” noting that “everyone knows about how ridiculous their live shows were too, and they’re a big influence on us in that regard.” As for Every Time I Die, Toothless have more praise, referring to the group as “easily one of the most consistently great bands around” and adding: “Every album they put out seems to be better than the last, and they’re always iterating on their sound without falling into any cliches or gimmicks.”
The group also lauds Norma Jean and Greyhaven for their combo of ferocity with “loads of memorable hooks,” and they single out mathcore heroes The Dillinger Escape Plan for their “great music that genuinely pushes boundaries.”
This ideal of finding a space for dynamics within the realm of chaotic music figures prominently in Toothless’s process. They note that their new songs “all came together pretty naturally through jamming on parts and shaping them over time,” adding: “We consciously write to have enough repetition so listeners have parts they can grab onto.”
They’re among the many groups who’ve had to dial back on tour plans amidst COVID-19, and they note that they’re looking forward to getting the shows rescheduled that have been put on hold and getting to work together in-person on their planned album.
Photo via Travis Antoniello
Check out the EP below! Nab physical copies and merch at this link. Greg Thomas and Chris Teti at Silver Bullet Studios handled production, engineering, and mixing, while Bill Henderson at Azimuth Mastering handled mastering the record. Besides Antoniello, the band currently includes bassist Eric Novroski, guitarist Brian Zannetti, and drummer James Slattery.