To simply label The Space Between Your Teeth as a doom metal release is to only tell half the story. For sure, Keeper are there amongst the slowest of the slow, with the record only containing two tracks and being over thirty minutes long. They may carry themselves along at the heaviest and most glacial of paces, destructive and majestic in equal measure, each moment a hammer-blow on your soul; but there is something more to the record than that. Appropriately for a record with such a title, there are moments that creep through in the tiny gaps in the music, granting glimpses of something far deeper and grander than would typically be expected. There may be a vast gulf of darkness here, and depths in which the listener can drown; but somewhere down there, hidden away and found only by the most persistent and brave explorers, there is something close to hope.
Not that there’s any easy indications of that. Initial listens suggest The Space Between Your Teeth to be an exercise in misery and punishment; a grueling, yet ultimately cathartic listen that drags the listener down, buried in dirt and sludge, with only the barest traces of melody or light. Even when there is a sense of space to the music, it is full of dread and ominous foreboding, hinting at the dangers to come. Atop the slowest-of-slow riffs and crushing drums are vicious, throat-tearing vocals, full of hurt and misery. This is the ugly offspring of sludge and funeral doom, with hints of post-metal dynamics providing just enough space to stop the record being too punishing a listen. It is not easy, but it is manageable.
It is with repeated listens that the true power of The Space Between Your Teeth becomes more apparent. Those first plays may be spent sinking in to the darkness it conjures with such apparent ease, shutting out the world as you wallow in blackness; but with time, the subtle details become clearer and ensure that the record has lasting appeal beyond initial rushes of negativity and hate. Subtle guitar movements and turns of melody rise from the depths, and there are moments of surprisingly deft drumming, such as around the 7 minute mark of “The King”. They give the music extra character and – if not vitality and charm (the music is too dark, too crushing for such descriptions) – then they certainly give it that extra something which elevates Keeper above the masses of other bands tuning their guitars down as low as they will go and playing at the slowest of tempos.
The question, of course, is whether the listener has the resilience to survive and, in time, fully appreciate what the record offers. The Space Between Your Teeth is far from an easy listen, and demands – and deserves – time and attention. Of course, there is the initial thrill of hearing something so depraved and vicious, but the real strength of The Space Between Your Teeth is in its depth, and the more subtle touches and elements buried there. It is not a journey to be taken unprepared, but it is one well worth making. The Space Between Your Teeth may start off promising only darkness and hurt, but by the end, catharsis and something remarkably close to hope can be found .