LIVE: Beartooth / Motionless In White / Stray From The Path @ Wembley Arena, London

By Katherine Allvey

Static and blinding lights call out from behind a blank sheet until a logo flares across like the bat signal. The crowd roars in appreciation as a silhouetted figure, full of coiled spring energy, starts to bounce, bounce, bounce…then the screen drops, confetti flies and the show erupts. This tour has been three years in the making and they’ve made it worth our collective wait; for the next two hours, Wembley is flooded with the kind of devotion and vibes that dreams are made of, proving that Beartooth are absolutely one of the best metal acts to come to our shores in a long time. 

But before Beartooth can savage Wembley, Stray from the Path get the pit started. With a debt to Beastie Boys as much as Korn, their controversial samples on euthanasia and cutesy “join the police” songs contrast with the brutality of the drumbeats and their strong message of support for the marginalised.

The second support, Motionless in White, create circle pits like the dark spots on Jupiter, which seems fitting for a band whose sound and devotion from fans are planetary in scale. ‘Cyberhex’ could topple a building if focused into the right point. “Time to unleash the gates of Hell – it’s Slaughterhouse” screams Chris Motionless, which primes and readies the crowd for explosion, but this is a fuse that will relight over and over tonight. Their cover of ‘Somebody Told Me’ injects of a dose of silliness into an otherwise super serious set, and the crowd love it. The glass separating the more hardcore metal fans has been shattered and now all musical factions are on board by the time Beartooth take the stage.

”We have waited a long fucking time for this show to happen, Wembley… We are a band called Beartooth. We’ve come here to do one thing: rip your faces off with high voltage rock n roll and heavy metal!” Vocalist Caleb Shomo is a force of nature, his singing alternating between a roar emerging from somewhere deep within in his chest and surprising tenderness and intimacy. He barely stops moving for ninety minutes, constantly jumping, posing and flinging himself around the stage. In fact, his only pause is between ‘Devastation’ and ‘Disease’, some ten minutes into the show, when he silently and theatrically directs the audience’s cheers like a ringmaster. When Oshie Bichar and Zach Huston take on lead vocal duties on ‘Skin’ the emotional tone shift is subtle but so very effective, filling in the silences while Shomo throws blind hope and triumph in his poses and hypnotic, gut wrenching sentiment.  

It’s the emotion and intention behind their songs which make Beartooth something special, and it’s this quality which resonates deep with all of us watching. Shomo’s directive of “Off your feet!” creates a pit like a tidal wave, endlessly crashing. Each line holds meaning for the crowd: he sings “I’ll tell you I’ll be fine” and the fists in the air are the rope dragging this sentiment closer. He sings “we are the stars”, and pounding stars we are too. Of course, it helps when the lyrics are punctuated with pyrotechnics: it’s pretty obvious that ‘Beaten In Lips’ would be a big anthem with its catchy chorus and message, but having flames shooting out the stage on the line “light my words with kerosene” is a genius move, even if it isn’t exactly subtle. 2021’s surprising single drop ‘Riptide’ has been regular feature on Beartooth’s setlist this tour and it doesn’t disappoint at Wembley: a short Nine Inch Nails style electro interlude plays us in to a song with a rhythm like a heartbeat and, despite Shomo’s decision to put on a mint green anorak over a bare chest in a controversial sartorial move for this number, it’s a very exciting signpost about Beartooth’s next musical direction. ‘Hated’, the only track from 2016’s ‘Aggressive’ to make it into the set, is frankly stunning live. A sparkling piano introduction followed by a call to hold up our phones created an arena alive with electronic fireflies, and the contrast between the prelude and Huston’s trademark grinding-gears-meets-purring-cat guitar style is immense: tearing down a stereotype of beauty to create something of greater appeal while “from the ashes of the ignorant” touches the souls of most of the audience. 

It’s no great surprise that the final song is ‘In Between’, Beartooth’s biggest song to date, the perfect climax for the main set. Sweet and sharp like shards of sugar crystals, Beartooth include playful dramatic blackouts just as the audience couldn’t be more drawn to their light like moths to a flame. Hearing an audience united in song will never get old, and what’s more fantastic is how subtly done the big finish is. The rest of the band disappear almost without fanfare, leaving Shomo alone to sing out the ‘whoah’ line in acapella vulnerability. That line continues when the house lights go up like an incantation for an encore. 

And what a beautiful thing the encore is. Spotlights and feedback grow ominously as the pit opens and the crowd drop the the floor and begin to row, with lone fans still standing like islands. “I don’t want this to end but I guess we fucking gotta,” screams Shomo as Beartooth begin ‘The Past is Dead’, its throaty birdsong choruses clipped by chipped drumbeats and that trademark grind of guitar. He disappears momentarily, but the stage isn’t empty without the singer: the rest of the band fill void with sound, and grab their own attention, which seems like the Beartooth DIY philosophy summed up. Within moments, he’s back, holding a guitar like a hard won trophy, with the rest of the band behind him playing with fire and force as they end with the same intensity they began with. He silently mimes for what looks like a wall of death but it’s a corridor for Shomo to get to the sound desk. He strides forward like the pied piper before parting the crowd again to stroll back, swatting a few fans who haven’t got the message. As the final chords of ‘The Last Riff’ fade, smoke pushes up like a final pressure release from the front of stage over static feedback, signalling the end of an absolutely stunning live show from one of the hottest acts out there in the scene today.