You would be hard pressed to find a band that exploded faster than Beartooth. Just six years ago, Beartooth was an experimental side project for Caleb Shomo, then vocalist and keyboardist for Attack Attack!. After his departure from Attack Attack!, he recruited a band, and seemingly overnight Beartooth was tearing up charts with their debut Disgusting. The unchecked raw aggression of the musical style paired with starkly confessional lyrics propelled Beartooth through a rapid-fire follow-up with Aggressive in 2015. The band’s third album, Disease, saw the band taking more time than they’d ever had before to perfect their next move.
That extra attention to detail was evident in early releases “Disease,” “Bad Listener,” “Manipulation” and “You Never Know,” four songs which display the greatest range of musical texture we’ve yet heard from Beartooth. Title track “Disease” is melodic as it keens through the daily ups and downs of recovery and sobriety (themes forever inextricably linked to Beartooth’s perspective). “Bad Listener” is frenetic Beartooth aggression at its best, celebrating rock and roll attitude and screaming the cheeky hook “I’m not deaf / I’m just a real bad listener.” “Manipulation” rages against predatory behavior. Sobering “You Never Know” swings back towards melodic as the lyrics navigate the fog of a depressive episode.
Some of the real gems on the album however are deep cuts. “Believe” rides on unusually chipper gang vocals, pulling the listener into a soaring anthem of insistent belief that things can get better. “Used and Abused” throws a lifeline of solidarity to survivors. “Fire” starts with a sharp, eerie vocal line from Caleb Shomo before Connor Denis casts the track’s anchor with insistent drum beats. This song is a dance with internal demons, challenging “Save your breath it’s all turning into static / There’s no chance you’re winning this fight / Kill the lights and let’s do a little dancing / I hope you came here ready to die.”
Those two songs show us that below the post-hardcore bravado, an ongoing outworking of sobriety and spirituality remain core to Caleb Shomo’s work as a songwriter. His personal story of recovery stands as the quiet extra presence in every song Beartooth creates, and it lends humanity to even the stick-it-to-the-oppressor ragers like “Enemy” and “Infection.”
Undeniably, a lot of the themes here might seem at first glance to be similar to Disgusting or Aggressive. But make no mistake: this is not a retread record. Beyond the fact that Shomo displays variance in vocal range like never before and Zach Huston’s guitar work is delightfully tightening in skill and expanding in tone as the band develops, Disease tells the part of the recovery story that is nearly never allowed into the light: what happens after that first day you toss the pills, drain the bottles, trash the razors, go to therapy? What happens when you’ve had to try and make that same decision to take your eyes off the past and keep getting well, day after day, for years? We hear the answer in “Clever,” which Shomo has described as the crux of the album and a personal breaking point: “If I’m clever you might never understand / I feel like death and me are walking hand in hand / When my happiness is hanging by a thread I finally feel content / I guess being being clever’s just my safety net.”
Leave it to Beartooth to have you plumbing the depths of your worst impulses one moment and celebrating the exhilarating momentum of rock and roll the next. This method of painting with the full palette of emotional experience is exactly what we want from Beartooth, and they deliver it on Disease with their most fine-tuned musical venture yet. The intentional longer time period they dedicated to the creative process allowed for a greater level of individuality from song to song than on their past two releases, propelling them to a new level of musical excellence. If there’s a sound that could serve as the face of hard rock in 2018, Beartooth could be it– and Disease is an album you won’t want to miss.
Related Artists: Silent Planet, Slipknot, Memphis May Fire