Album review: Beartooth – Below
‘I feel the rage / Something’s starting to grow,’ snarls Caleb Shomo. ‘Six hundred sixty six feet in my hell below…’
Starting with the first line of the opening title-track on Beartooth’s fourth album, it’s clear that we’re treading through more unhinged, infernal territory than ever before. From the skeletal biker ripping up the graveyard dirt on its artwork (“He’s the overlord of the darkness within myself,” Caleb told K! earlier this year) to the headbanging rhythms of Fed Up, the blastbeats of Dominate and the Metallica-indebted instrumental closer The Last Riff, this is a no-holds-barred exercise in heavy fucking metal. It’s a record influenced by Sabbath and Sleep, Power Trip and Pantera – and it shows through proudly.
Thematically, the shift fits. Caleb has admitted that he started out writing in a positive headspace, but completing much of recording during COVID lockdown, the multi-instrumentalist and producer was dragged deeper into darkness than ever before. Consequently, there a confessional quality to lyrics like, ‘I’ve been sleeping on the floor of my closet again wishing hopelessness is something I might beat in the end,’ (Skin) or, ‘When I disappear, no-one will care about a single word I’ve ever put in the air, ’cause I know saying that I’m hurting’s getting old,’ (No Return) that takes us back to Beartooth’s troubled, cathartic beginnings.
Crucially, as the world finds its way back to some sort of normality, it’s a catharsis which listeners are invited to share. The album’s larger-than-life tendencies are custom-tooled with a theatricality to serve Beartooth on ever-grander stages. There are blasts of airy euphoria cutting through the chaos even on the most metallic bangers like Devastation and Hell Of It. And Caleb certainly hasn’t forgotten his way around a chorus, with skyscraping pop-rock bangers I Won’t Give Up and The Past Is Dead packing enough exuberant ‘woah-oh’s and fists-in-the-air sing-alongs to light up arenas around the world.
Proof that Caleb Shomo is one of his generation’s most remarkable songwriters: the deeper he dives, the higher Beartooth climb.
Beartooth’s new album Below is out now via Red Bull Records. Get your copy here.
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