Album Review: Beartooth - ‘Disease’
In signature Beartooth style, they’ve come back fighting with an album that will rip and tear without second thoughts.
There’s nothing quite like a Beartooth album - with teeth gritted, kicking and screaming, it’s something akin to an unstoppable force of nature. Unforgivingly honest, it hits home and confronts dark thoughts and emotions in a way that can be uncomfortable, yet this brutal honesty is something needed by all. As frontman Caleb Shomo explains, “The album is a whirlwind of emotion. Crazy highs, crazy lows, and lots of intensity. This record isn't about winning anything. It's about trying to even begin to learn how to deal with things. It’s hard to process just how dark you can get, what you can really put yourself through with expectations. It's like starting from the beginning all over again. At the end of the day, it is a very dark album.”
And the darkness begins with ‘Greatness or Death’. An uncharacteristic opening comes in the form of tender acoustic guitar and exposed vocals as unfiltered emotions spill out. This heartbreakingly frail texture doesn’t last for long, with Shomo screaming “This is greatness or death” before full-throttled instrumentals slam into you. You’ll feel every inch of pain as Shomo sarcastically comments, “Well you know what they say - sickness is in season”, and between the harsh vocals and unrelenting riffs, it’s an emotionally battering opening track.
‘Disease’ showcases a more melodic side to the band, with Shomo’s outstanding clean vocals taking centre stage. There’s a space in the track that allows for an interplay of textures, as it provides space for you to breath before snatching that way in a thundering release of riffs. Featuring one of the biggest choruses on the record, there’s no doubt that this will be screamed right back at the band at live shows. The building of tension on ‘Fire’ is incredible to witness, as pounding drums drive the energy throughout the track and titanic chords interplay with punchy screams in the bridge.
The relentless energy continues in ‘You Never Know’, and there’s a brilliant breakdown section perfect for headbanging immediately after the chorus. Tackling themes of uncertainty and the questions that plague your mind, it puts into music a feeling that all of us are familiar with. Those yearning after a heavier sound will have their thirst quenched in ‘Bad Listener’, a blistering piece that sears with intensity. Meandering back into more melodic territory for ‘Afterall’, there’s an affirming message in learning to accept your flaws and feelings, as Shomo confesses, “I guess I’m just human afterall.”
Electrifying riffs dominate in ‘Manipulation’, and there’s an anger lacing the track which manifests itself as a ruthless forward momentum. Heavily distorted guitars open the track, before a drum beat and Shomo’s scream of “This is manipulation” plunges you into a riff heavy instrumental section, with shrieking high guitars adding an extra sense of menace. You’ll get all riled up in ‘Enemy’, arguably the heaviest track on the album. With crushingly heavy guitars and inexorable drums, it’s a cathartic release as Shomo defiantly howls, “I will never be defeated by the enemy”.
Contrasting in character is the soaring ‘Believe’, an anthemic track that brings a glimmer of optimism. ‘Infection’ throws the listener back into riff city, as guitars plunder through and a prominent bass delivers a strong support, as Shomo navigates between clean and harsh vocals without a hint of struggle. Another contender for the heaviest track is ‘Used And Abused’, an angry track that will rip through it’s path and leave a hurricane of emotions in it’s wake. Closing with ‘Clever’, it’s a hard-hitting ending which leaves you with the words “I guess being clever’s just my safety net”. ‘Disease’ is a further example of the raw and personal truth that permeates through Beartooth’s music, and it’s a journey through Shomo’s darkest feelings expressed in a way that will allow the listener to share their own experiences within it.
Words by Athena Kam