On June 18th Download Pilot actually took place, taking us that one set further towards the full return of live concerts and festivals. Whist we’ve been crossing our fingers and praying to our Gods for the pandemic’s end to finally come, artist across the world have been releasing LP’s, EP’s and whatever content they can so to capitalize on this post pandemic boom. One such band with a brand new album out, with a UK tour announced for 2022 is the Ohio based metalcore band, Beartooth.
The band burst into the heavy scene with their 2014 debut album, ‘Disgusting’ including mosh pit anthems ‘Body Bag’ and their biggest hit to date with ‘In Between.’ Although I found their 2016 follow up record, ‘Aggressive’ to be rather disappointing by comparison, both records firmly established Beartooth as a progressive band heavily concerned with mental health and aiming to express progressive perspectives towards it. Fortunately, Beartooth’s third studio album ‘Disease’ would be as strong as their first, if maybe not as heavy. Frontman, Caleb Shomo, gives his vocal chords a rest as the band deliver what is perhaps their best record to date thanks to such singles as ‘Disease’ and ‘Afterall’. Now in 2021, Beartooth are releasing their fourth studio album with ‘Below’, however, is it a winner like ‘Disgusting’ and ‘Disease’ or a disappointment like ‘Aggressive’? Let’s have a listen shall we?
Simulating the sound of live music, the opening title track, ‘Below’, comes to a grungy start with the distorted roar of guitars, the thumping echo of drums and the return of Shomo’s hasher vocal range. The title track then explodes into a heavy metal headbanger. Heavier than the last two records, ‘Below’ takes Beartooth back to their roots, with a much more polished sound. The work Shomo has done on his voice is very clearly shown throughout ‘Below’ and metalheads alike will be excited to see what the rest of the record has to offer.
The band wastes no time at all as the lead single Devastation explodes into your ears. With its heavy, yet bouncy sound ‘Devastation’ is clearly written with the mosh pit in mind. Energetic, catchy and showcasing Shomo’s vocal range, ‘Devasation’ is an irresistibly catchy heavy metal anthem that will have metalheads excited for when moshing finally returns.
Keeping the energy up with its infectious chanting is the albums second single ‘The Past Is Dead.’ Blending their heavy metal sound and breakdowns of their debut record together with the catchy melodies displayed in ‘Disease’, ‘The Past Is Dead’ finds Beartooth effectively playing to their strengths to create one of their most effective ear worms to date.
Next up is Below’s third single, ‘Fed Up’ which takes the album takes a turn towards the punk genre with its thrashing drums and Shomo’s escalating vocals repeating “I’m so Fed Up I’ve Had It.’ Conventionally heavy yet bouncy, ‘Fed Up’ flows into a punky call and response verse followed by a softer, more melodic chorus. Although playing it safe by continuing to stick to their strengths, ‘Fed Up’ is yet another metal banger nonetheless.
There’s no slowing Beartooth as the band keep things at 11 with their next track ‘Dominate.’ By far the heaviest track so far, ‘Dominate’ demonstrates the bands incredible instrumental talent, as well as, showcasing just how far Shomo’s vocal ability has come. ‘Dominate’ may not be as much of an ear worm as the four previous tracks; however, the talent on display throughout the track cannot be ignored.
Keeping things heavy is the albums next track ‘No Return.’ Boasting a Dancey chorus, ‘No Return’ makes effective use of a familiar metalcore song structure to deliver a song for all metal fans. Accommodating everyone from toe tappers to moshers, ‘No Return’ is yet another full throttle hit off what has so far been a surprisingly awesome record.
Frontman Caleb Shomo takes a deep breath in before starting the next blistering track ‘Phantom Pain.’ Like much of the album thus far, ‘Phantom Pain’ is brimming with as much energy as it does anger. It’s very evident at this point that ‘Below’ is a furious record made by a band that is fully aware of where their strengths lie.
Unconventionally opening with a guitar reminiscent of Muse’s ‘Plug in Baby’ is the albums eighth track ‘Skin.’ On the softer scale of Beartooths work, although by no means soft, ‘Skin’ thrives off its chorus’s catchy melody and Shomo’s clean vocals.
‘Dominate gets dethroned as the heaviest track off ‘Below’ as ‘Hell Of It’ explodes into your eardrums. Full throttle and never letting up, ‘Hell Of It’ feels like Beartooth fully realising the sound they wanted to achieve with their debut record. ‘Hell Of It’ is a wonderfully polished musical assault that finds Beartooth at their most brutal.
Stating with a stomp clap beat before bursting to life is the tenth track ‘I Won’t Give It Up’, sticking with their winning formula, ‘I Won’t Give It Up’ is catchy, energetic and features a satisfying breakdown to mosh to. The album is structurally repetitive and that does begin to drag around the records end, however, ‘I Won’t Give Up’ is still a catchy metal anthem, it just isn’t as memorable as the albums opening half.
Perhaps the weakest track is the albums penultimate. Like the rest of the album before it ‘The Answer’ sticks to a repetitive and conventional metalcore structure, however with this song, the structure seems to have exhausted itself and the resulting song isn’t that memorable.
Suprisingly, ‘Below’ closes on something different, a purely instrumental track fittingly titled ‘The Last Riff.’ Reminiscent of the crushing awesomness of Mick Gordon’s Doom score, ‘The Last Riff’ is one of the best tracks on ‘Below’ and a perfect ending to what has been solid, if riskless record.
Overall, ‘Below’ finds Beartooth at both their heaviest and their most polished. Sticking firmly to their strengths, Beartooth demonstrates clearly that they aren’t looking to reinvent the wheel, but instead have painted it a rage fuelled colour. Although I personally, got fed up of the albums repetitiveness around the tracks ‘I Won’t Give It Up’ and ‘The Answer’, fortunately, ‘The Last Riff’ saved ‘Below’ from having a total fizzle out ending. Many will view ‘Below’ as the result of Beartooth not taking any risks and playing it very safe, which is hard to argue against, however, its hard to be mad when the result is a twelve track album full, for the most part, of back to back bangers and arguably Beartooth’s best record to date.
BELOW is OUT NOW and tickets for Beartooth’s UK/EU Tour are also Available NOW