For Fans Of
Beartooth is a band that intersects many junctions of the heavy, alternative music scene, and as such, therein lays the root of their success. They’re the trendy, rocking metalcore band that “true” hardcore kids can love without feeling like they’ve committed a cardinal sin. They’re the band that metalcore scene queens can follow to feel totally hardcore and what not. They’re also one of the few heavy bands that pop-punk aficionados can bring up in order up to look diverse and cool in front of their peers at shows, or whatever else those people do with their time.
After a fucking exceptional EP (‘Sick’), and an above average full-length (‘Disgusting’), The Caleb Shomo Road Show – AKA Beartooth – is back with their second album. And sweet baby Jesus does this album start off with a bang! The title track has a chorus that reaches dizzying heights, and the vocals and instruments strike with such venom that it was love at first sight for us. The eponymous track really is Beartooth putting their best foot forward first. It’s just a shame that that momentum doesn’t carry through. Cause you see, ‘Aggressive’ the song is fantastic. ‘Aggressive’ the album? Not so much.
For each of these 12 songs – from the ones we loved to the ones we didn’t – this album is just so fucking formulaic. That was the same issue with ‘Disgusting’. It’s fine to be consistent in your sound and to understand your band’s formula, and how to get the best out of it. Some bands, like Architects and Hatebreed for example, capitalise on this really well and have proved this to be true with their new albums respectively, while other such bands like The Amity Affliction and A Day To Remember, don’t fare as well we find. Beartooth falls into this latter category, and that may have something to do with the fact that one member alone (no prizes for guessing who that is) writes basically all the music and has the final say over their sound (for better or worse).
From the second song ‘Hated’, to the penultimate ‘Rock Is Dead’, we really just went through the motions with this release. Songs like ‘Censored‘, the angsty as all fuck ‘Burnout’ and the break-neck ‘Always Dead’ had us completely entranced. Yet the album goes on the back burner for songs like ‘How You Want It Said’, ‘Sick Of Me’ (which is basically ‘In Between’ from the last record), and ‘Find A Way’. As such, a lot of time we were basically left with the audible equivalent of blue balls.
Beartooth seems to be at their best when they focus solely on the punk/hardcore side of their sound and when they shy away from the poppier moments. Sure, they can be pretty catchy at times, but catchy doesn’t equal good. Now, I really dig how honest and cathartic the band’s lyrics are, honest to god, but just because you have emotional lyrics doesn’t mean you get a free pass with a glowing review.
The album’s final track, ‘King Of Anything’, is a minimal, dark, and very cathartic song. This is frontman Caleb Shomo rejecting the golden pedestal in which the press and fans hold him up on, and how this fame has placed unexpected, external pressure on his shoulders. Basically, he’s having it none of it and we’re glad he’s in a better headspace and had the guts to say it. It’s a great song and it shows more thematic depth than the typical self-deprecating lyrics the band is well known for.
Finally, despite the name, we find it funny that this isn’t as ‘aggressive’, as raw, or as punchy as ‘Sick’ was. That is arguably the band’s best release to date, both in its production/mix and the music itself. Sure, the title refers to Shomo’s positive state of mind currently (hence the reduction of self-hating lyrics and uplifting tone) but come on! When compared to their EP, which would have made Norma Jean blush profusely, this album’s got nothing on it! Maybe if the band had released these songs over the course of a few EP’s, they’d pop out more and would have more staying power, as brevity is the group’s best interest. It’d probably be cheaper and less time consuming, too.
Just like ‘Disgusting’, Beartooth’s second record is solid, but it’s just ultimately not THAT good. Such a huge precedent was set with their ‘Sick’ EP and it’s a real shame that they still haven’t recaptured that quality with this new record. Every now and then the group really harnesses their noisy, chaotic sound and the music becomes truly on-point. But it’s never consistent enough, and for every great song on ‘Aggressive’, there’s an average track that holds it back.
4. Fair Weather Friend
6. Sick Of Me
8. Always Dead
9. However You Want It Said
10. Find A Way
11. Rock Is Dead
12. King Of Anything