Animality, the debut EP from Durham quintet Tooth, begins a lot like a chubby pop-metal record: "Moderate Monster" lurches with two thick chords tacked with bright, wobbly bends. The tease ends after 30 seconds, though, when the whole production stops on a dime—courtesy of a vintage "The Four Horsemen" figure—to show Tooth's true, rangy colors. What follows is throttled thrash bounce, strapped with an unequivocal sludge gurgle that'd make fellow Dixie metallurgists Eyehategod proud. In those few minutes, Tooth manages a wildly rewarding hodgepodge of heavy influences, running the gamut from anything-core to ultra-crust.
Still, as impressively diverse as the band's palate on Animality may be, its strongest suit is the consistency of its low-slung and low-strung guitars. Front to back, the record's got the detuned depth its panoramic girth deserves. In a year filled with Deep South pot-metal from Wilmington's Weedeater and psych-heaviness from Savannah bands like Kylesa and Baroness, this record holds its own, boasting a lot of quality in 20 minutes.
Tooth keeps things moving in those minutes, as with "Monster." As soon as it seems Tooth has located the basement, its chug digs a bit deeper for a couple of Codeine-injected Saint Vitus moments. Dismantling ideas and clearcutting a sound to make room for a strong, sturdy, half-time crawl is a recurring theme for Animality: "The Stallion" re-casts the same riffage several times, each more gnarled and syrupy than the last, while album-closer "Ants" practically melts out of existence at its mid-point. Sure, it's not the strongest farewell (that'd be the churning "Dogs of the Fight," with its curdled black metal shrieks and busy guitar figures), but "Ants" caps off a four-song teaser EP that screams big things for Tooth and Triangle (and regional) metal at large.