Beartooth – ‘Below’

By Adam Rosario

For the past nine years, Beartooth have been tearing stages and eardrums apart with their brand of metallic tinged post-hardcore, fusing big riffs with even bigger choruses. Now arrives their fourth record, ‘Below’, written in part during the lockdown period the world has experienced with the COVID-19 pandemic. Known for his brutal honesty, this record finds frontman Caleb Shomo tackling mental health struggles in one of the most important records of the year.

Opening with the title track, a screeching reverb filled riff enters before the familiar scream from Shomo cements the chorus in the listeners head from the off. The verses are filled with slinky, almost hair metal melodies, which give way to another big chorus. Even on this first track, it is obvious Beartooth have upped their game – with more memorable choruses and riffs, this is a band at the peak of their powers. ‘Devastation’ follows and that really is the modus operandi here. It’s become quite clear that these are songs which have all been written to be played live, and each song will be a clear cathartic release for Shomo every night on stage. 

With this record, Shomo has taken the phrase ‘one man band’ to a whole new level as he wrote, performed, recorded, produced and mixed each song entirely alone, making songs like ‘The Past Is Dead’ feel even more impressive. The gang vocals are made up of layered vocals, all executed by Shomo who sings in different tones, making these moments feel fuller than they may otherwise have been. And then, of course, there’s the solo towards the end – one the likes of even Metallica would’ve been proud to write.

In contrast, ‘Fed Up’ brings the old ‘Every Time I Die’ comparisons back to the fore. A punk song with a call and guitar response, this track gives a sense of urgency to proceedings, with the line “I never want peace / I thrive in the panic” being another example of Shomo’s knack for writing meaningful, memorable lines before another huge metallic riff kicks in during the breakdown. ‘Dominate’ is another great example, as Shomo sings of separating his own weakness and carrying the weight of everything from wanting to realign so that he can ‘Dominate’, presents him in his most vulnerable state. He is a wholly believable singer, one of the very rare artists who can grab the attention of anyone with his raw sincerity. 

There are big radio songs nestled in the record too. ‘No Return’ is a dressed up nervous breakdown, with a bouncy melody backed up by a riff towards the end that imitates Slipknot in the best way. ‘Phantom Pain’ tackles relationship issues whilst ‘Skin’ sees Shomo lamenting on his lack of comfort within himself, and how lonely he is. ‘Hell Of It’ is another single which screams rage as Shomo depicts living in his torturous state, using the call and response technique to give his mind a voice. This was an obvious choice for a single, as it’s an instant Beartooth classic, collating everything they do best to show off the quintessential song of themselves.

‘I Won’t Give It Up’ is an overly positive start to the finale, with the band stressing to the listener that there is hope and purpose in life, a notion that only continues as we move into ‘The Answer’. Overall, ‘Below’ is the best that Beartooth have written, taking everything from their past and doing it all so much better. The choruses are bigger, the riffs are more complex and the song writing is exemplary.

Right up until the second to last song, it’s a great record, but when the closer ‘The Last Riff’ concludes, it proves that it goes beyond that – this is a special record. There are no discernible vocals in this track, but there don’t need to be. In fact, this is the one time that that vocals, even as brilliantly delivered as they are from Shomo, would harm a song. There is a choir like reverb throughout, hauntingly steering the song, and some of the heaviest riffs that this band have put their name to, and the reverberation sounds like there are twenty people playing the guitar at the same time while the drums are hit harder than at any other point during this record. ‘The Last Riff’ could easily be the soundtrack to Armageddon, with the ferocity and emotion that is put into the playing, and it’s a song that easily turns this record into a contender for album of the year.

Beartooth have become one of the most exciting bands to see live, and with ‘Below’ they are ready to continue to grow. This record really is a special one, with the level of musicianship at an all-time high and the honesty and sincerity that Caleb Shomo shows through his vocals and lyrics are sure to connect with people. With the last year being what it was, Shomo is not alone in feeling how he is and this record was clearly as cathartic for him as it will be for the fans. This is a genuine must listen record, and Beartooth are a band who are to be treasured and nurtured to the biggest stages in the world. 

ADAM ROSARIO

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