Beartooth – Disease
Released: September 28th, 2018
Caleb Shomo // Lead Vocals
Kamron Bradbury // Rhythm Guitar & Backup Vocals
Oshie Bichar // Bass & Backup Vocals
Connor Denis // Drums
Zach Huston // Lead Guitar & Backup Vocals
My relationship with Beartooth has been pretty positive since first discovering them when they supported In Hearts Wake back in 2015, during that time I was going through a really fucked up and mentally draining battle with depression and anxiety and found that nothing I was doing was making me feel any better. So naturally I turned to music and found myself relating to the lyrics of their first album Disgusting and in a strange turn of events, I started accepting that I wasn’t going to cure myself of this mental illness (which still plagues me to this day), but instead I was able to escape it momentarily by listening to the lyrics and music written by frontman Caleb Shomo and realising we’re all not alone in our battles. This guy so openly and heavily discusses his own fight on a public scale and everything he writes about can easily be related and connected to something we, the active listener are going through. It’s a connection I’ve never been able to match with any other bands and so here I am bringing you my honest and in-depth look at the band’s latest offering Disease which sees ex-From Moths To Flames guitarist Zach Huston replace Taylor Lumley and Connor Denis join the band as their full-time drummer, alongside Shomo, bassist Oshie Bichar and rhythm guitarist Kamron Bradbury.
UPDATE: Before reviewing this album, I came across a quote that mentioned the whole band was involved in the recording process this time around, however, it has been drawn to my attention that Caleb, once again, was at the helm of recording all parts. With that said, please ignore the references to other members playing their parts on the album until I can find that quote and rectify the situation. I know it’s out there…
The album opens with ‘Greatness or Death‘ which kicks things off slow and easy with Caleb Shomo and an acoustic guitar, easing us into it before EXPLODING with a scream and the rest of the band aggressively joining in. I mean that, watch your eardrums, during that intro, you’ll be deaf by the end of the song if you’ve got it at full volume, but in saying that, the rest of the song needs to be heard as loud as possible. It’s full of classic Beartooth riffs, and the sexy, melodic vocals of Shomo, combined with his yells (not screams). The band’s signature breakdown calls are back, in this instance you’ll be screaming: “I’m beginning to think I can’t outrun these demons/but you know what they say, sickness is in season” before throwing yourself against the wall in a fit of uncontrollable, emotional relief. I sure as hell hope the band open with this song at all of their future shows, it’s the perfect introduction to the band’s next phase. Title track ‘Disease‘ follows and you should have already checked this song out by now, if not, give yourself a slap and read on. This one shows more of the band’s melodic side, but despite the easy-going chords playing along under Shomo’s voice, you will no doubt find yourself bouncing along and singing at the top of your lungs during the climax. For those following, the breakdown counter is at 2 following this one.
‘Fire‘ is up next and this is the album’s first fast track, I guarantee circle pits will erupt at shows when this one comes on, Zach Huston also proves his addition to the band was well worth it as he plays along with ease chucking in some new techniques that make the sound pop more. There’s also the addition of a tambourine before each chorus which surprisingly doesn’t sound out of place, but more so a welcomed change. The breakdown counter reaches 3 before the third section of the song sees the return of some clean-ish screams to see the track out. ‘You Never Know‘ was a weird one for me, when I first heard it, I wasn’t as keen on it as I was with the other singles that had been released, but over time, it has become one of my favourite headbanging tracks of all time and there’s no denying this fact when you hear it. There are plenty of times you can violently thrash your head up and down, especially during breakdown #4. Lyrically the song is an anthem for people who worry about what they’d do when they can no longer fight their mental illness. They think about what they’d do if they weren’t able to go on and push through the challenges anymore, but the lyrics reassure them that you’ll never know what that feeling is like until you get there and you know for sure. So in a way, it’s a song for those struggle with anxiety, who are always thinking what if, instead of living in the present.
‘Bad Listener‘ is for the heavy Beartooth fans, the ones who started out listening to the Sick EP and prefer the band’s heavier side of music. It’s simply a heavy track full of headbanging inducing riffs, screams, a breakdown (#5) and focuses on those who put down others for following their dreams, in this instance, Caleb’s career in heavy music. I guess fans in the heavy music scene can bring it back to the expectations and opinions others outside of our little “niche” community have towards our choice of music to love and support. Others don’t get it, but we do. On to of all of that, this one also produces one of the best endorphin releasing lyrics; “I’ll be banging my head till my brain rots”, I dare you to listen to that part and not move one single part of your body. It’s impossible. ‘Afterall‘ has a positively reinforced “it’s okay to be not okay” message behind it, addressing struggles mental health sufferers face like thinking you’re fine, only for the issues to come back again and realising you’re only human, like everyone else. As someone who constantly bashes himself up for little things, which consequently snowball into bigger, inescapable thoughts and feelings, in a strange way, I feel better knowing I’m not the only one who has this exact struggle. There are times when I feel like giving up and just don’t want to play ball so to say, but I usually just accept that this is how I am and try to go about my day as best as I can, without beating myself up over it. And it is weird how hauntingly accurate Caleb Shomo managed to write about his own issues, but relate it to what I and many others are going through with this song, but it’s not your typical “I’m feeling down, everything sucks” vibe, it’s upbeat and rocky like you’re owning your imperfections and accepting it’s normal to feel the way you do.
‘Manipulation‘ turns the heavy tones up a notch for those who missed it during the last song and oh boy it’s riffy. There’s plenty of speed to get you headbanging into next week, plus the sneaky tambourine is back again and their pre-breakdown (#6) call “you’ve got hell to pay, you’ll get what’s coming to you” is not only perfectly suited to the track, but it’ll look great on the back of a Beartooth shirt. Next up is ‘Enemy‘, which is without a doubt the heaviest song on the album, combining harsh screaming vocals and fast-paced, circle pit inducing riffs with a melodic chorus, that’ll have you singing along at the top of your lungs. There’s the album’s seventh breakdown (arguably the best on the whole album) which only adds to the awesomeness of the song. The band have stated in interviews and on their social media accounts that this is their favourite new song to play at shows and it’s no surprise too, it has so many contrasting elements to it which add to the whole experience. If you turn your nose up to their slower stuff, you’ll probably be foaming at the mouth for this one. If you’re expecting metalcore, you’re probably gonna have a bad time, as it borders more on the hard rock side of music.
‘Believe‘ is interesting upon first listen. When those four songs leaked online (yes I know it’s bad to listen to them, but I have terrible self-control issues and I couldn’t stop myself), this was the one I tried to stop myself from listening to, but when I finally gave into temptation, I didn’t hate it, but I didn’t rate it. However, I came back to it a couple of days later and ended up listening to it non-stop for no less than an hour. If Beartooth ever go mainstream, this is the song to do it for them. It’s melodic, with plenty of sing-a-long moments and a somewhat (heavy) pop punk/rock feel behind it (think of when Fall Out Boy were good and had that touch of heaviness behind them). Now, in saying that, I’m in no way shape or form saying this is a pop song, its Beartooth we’re talking about here, it’s just one of the more melody/clean vocal driven tracks they’ve produced and it just works well for them, proving they’re more than just another metalcore band making it big. Speaking of leaked tracks, one of the others that arrived early online was ‘Infection‘ and I was so surprised they didn’t release this as a single because it is your typical Beartooth song. Heavy/Melodic contrasts, sing-a-long inducing chorus, riffs-a-plenty, circle-pit inducing breakdown (#8), screams, Connor Denis bashing that kit like there’s no tomorrow and most importantly, relatability through lyrics with this one (in my opinion) being about letting someone in and having it backfire to the point where the infection (anxiety/depression) takes over your body and there’s nothing you can do to stop it.
Usually around this point, most bands tend to slow things down for the climax of an album which has taken you on an emotional journey, but not this time, Beartooth turn the volume up to 11 once again and increase the tempo tenfold for ‘Used and Abused‘. With this one, I get a big ‘Body Bag‘ vibe from their 2014 Disgusting album and if that’s the song that got you into the band, this one will keep you hanging around for years to come. The guys have really stepped back into their past for this collection of songs it seems and I can see this track becoming a new fan favourite in years to come, even if they don’t release it as a single, it’ll stand tall perfectly on its own. Oh, we also hit breakdown nine with this too so fuck yeah. For the final song ‘Clever‘, this time around, instead of stripping everything back like they have done in the past with album closers ‘Sick and Disgusting‘ and ‘King of Anything‘ (off 2016’s Aggressive), the whole band stick around and dish out another serving of Caleb’s struggles, only this time it’s about the way he masks his depression by fronting the band, putting on a fake smile and lying to everyone by trying to reassure them he’s fine in a hope they’ll believe there’s no need to worry. But as the song progresses it also serves as an acknowledgment of living with mental illness, that feeling where you come to terms with the fact that this is how you are is prevalent throughout especially with lyrics like “I’m out of ways to answer, I’m out of metaphors, I finally got so sick there is no cure”. But it’s not all doom and gloom as it reads out in this review, it’s done in such a positive, upbeat way, that you yourself will feel something if this is what you’re going through or have recently addressed and come to terms with personally. It is also the best song to end with too, in the past (especially with the aforementioned album closers) the listening experience can kinda leave you bummed out and down if you’re not in a good headspace, however with this new direction, you’re left with a feeling of knowing that you’re going to be fine. I take from it that you’re good at what you do when you’re not crippled by your mental illness and while you’re not 100% all the time, you’re willing to share and let the world know what you’re going through and it’s fine, you are perfectly normal with what you deal with on a daily basis and you’re not alone, there’s so many others out there who are in the same boat, it’s just how we balance our lives around what we can and can’t do that helps us see the end goal.
Over the years we’ve seen Caleb openly address his own battles through his music with Beartooth and what a journey that has been for us to follow and relate with. From the early, heavy as fuck releases of the Sick EP and debut album Disgusting, through to the more melodic offerings on Aggressive and now this latest release, we have seen this guy struggle to the point of exhaustion and desperation, come around full circle to owning his illness (to the best of his ability) in a more mature and successfully driven kind of way. While others may see Disease as a softer progression for the band, I see it just as lyrically brutal as the previous offerings, only now Caleb Shomo isn’t playing the victim anymore, he’s the survivor guiding others through their own journeys and struggles. There’s something about Beartooth that other bands can’t emulate and that’s their ability to transition between fast, heavy tracks to their more slower, melodic side while still staying true to their core fanbase and values.
While it was hard to pinpoint a negative with this album, the only thing that came to mind was the formula of the way songs were written e.g. riff here, breakdown there, melodic part here. It was a touch predictable at times, HOWEVER, in saying that, each song sounded different from the last, so that’s why I’m not tearing it apart.
Beartooth – Disease tracklisting
1. Greatness Or Death
4. You Never Know
5. Bad Listener
11. Used And Abused
If you or anyone you know needs help with their own mental well-being call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636 or find your closest Suicide Prevention/Crisis Support Organisation on Google…