Pulling Teeth perfected its fast, punk-tinged hardcore attack on its 2007 Deathwish, Inc. full-length, Martyr Immortal, but then took a bit of a left turn with 2009’s five-track full-length, Paranoid Delusions/Paradise Illusions, churning out long songs, atmospheric dirges and some heroic guitar theatrics underneath vocalist Mike Riley’s very-punk-for-a-hardcore-band vocal stylings. With this somewhat abrupt change in style (or maybe better termed as an expansion of style), it undoubtedly left some of PT’s fans scratching their heads.
However, with this new record, the band chose to chase both of its styles, with the first seven tracks made up of short and fast bursts of hardcore fury and the following five tracks as slower atmospheric pieces, all clocking in anywhere from 5:57 to the more-than-10-minute epic title track, “Funerary”. As was likely planned, the opening tracks absolutely smoke, making for the fiercest batch of songs the band has released. “From Birth” features breakneck riffing, some of the aforementioned guitar theatrics, and a killer breakdown complete with guest vocals from Justice Tripp (vocalist of a band I’m not even going to bother mentioning here).
Fans of the Paranoid record will certainly be pleased with the slower, atmospheric tracks that populate the second half of the record. This style is certainly not easy to do, and there have been times in the past when the band attempted it but occasionally lost direction. However, here they seem to have gotten a handle on what they are trying to do, which is probably best described as “whatever they want”—an approach I always endorse. That said, there are demanding moments in these tracks, but also huge payoffs for the committed listener.
Lyrically, this is easily the best batch of songs from Mike Riley yet. In previous releases, he excelled most with short sloganistic-type of lyrics (“Dead Is Dead” from Martyr Immortal). However, with this release he has written complete ideas into the songs while sticking to similar themes of the band’s past. Many of these songs feature guest vocalists including Tripp, Rob Sullivan of Ruiner, and tons more. I’m not typically a fan of the over-use of guests, but most of these work pretty well. One surprise vocally is the epic group singing in “Waiting”, which definitely took me off guard the first time I heard it.
Sonically, the band sticks fairly close with the sound of their previous releases, but with enhanced clarity over the Paranoid release, resulting in positive effects as some of the complex guitar work on Paranoid was lost in that record’s dense and raw tone. However, this release is still a decidedly unslick beast, favoring an almost black metal-inspired rawness over studio shine.
Finally, it should be noted that this release was handled by A389 exclusively. However, there is little reason to believe there is drama, as A389 is run by members of Pulling Teeth, and Deathwish just recently released the Grey Savior split between Pulling Teeth and the J. Bannon, Dwid Hellion, and Stephen Kasner experimental group, Irons. Funerary makes for an another solid—and likely their best—release from Pulling Teeth.