Sound — 6
Risen from the ashes of Attack Attack!, Beartooth immediately burst from the gate with an EP and full-length ("Disgusting") of fairly run-of-the-mill metalcore without any of AA's electronic trappings and djent-ier tendencies. Instead, the band, consisting of Caleb Shomo on vocals, Taylor Lumley and Kamron Bradbury on guitars, Oshie Bichar on bass, and Brandon Mullins on drums (though he recently left and was replaced by Connor Denis), showed a highly-polished, simple brand of metalcore, one that recalls modern post-metalcore (if that's even a thing yet. Whatever, that's what I'm calling it) bands like Asking Alexandria and Bring Me The Horizon. Rawness seems to be the band's intention with this record, featuring only very basic hardcore riffs (there's nary a chord on this album more complex than a root-fifth power chord), hardly any lead guitar work, and a pretty encyclopedic rehashing of pretty much every modern metalcore trope in the book.
Though the opening strains of the album's title track might give you the impression that you're about to listen to something unconventional, by the time the bass and drums kick in, it pretty much turns into textbook metalcore. The chorus is huge-sounding, with simple major-key clean vocals and thick power chords in sync with the bass and kick drum. And from here on in, that's the formula repeated on pretty much every song. The band does play around with their tempos a bit, and even find themselves being on the more hardcore punk side of things with tracks like "Always Dead," and poppier melodies and textures on "However You Want It Said," which is a real shoe-in for a big radio hit on the album. But by a few songs in, a lot of the music starts to kind of blend together in a way where it's hard to tell where one song ends and another begins if you're not paying attention.
Now it might sound like I'm disparaging this record out of the gate, and it's true that this band's brand of generic metalcore is... well, kind of generic. But there are some enjoyable riffs on this record, like the breakdown part of "Hated," and the slower atmospheres in the intro of "Sick of Me." The band's individual performances are competent, even if it does come off at times like an album built out of Lego bricks of stock drum fills and chord progressions. Lead guitar playing is used sparingly throughout the record, as are harsh vocals. The bass and kick drum are pretty much tidally locked to each other, with the rhythm guitar filling in the spaces between the rhythm section and the vocals with meaty power chords. The closest thing to an exception to the norm on this album is the album's closer, "King of Anything," a short tune that consists of simple clean vocals and slow dirge-like guitar arpeggios, and nothing more. It feels a bit like an idea that could have been turned into something epic and a little bit different from the rest of the album, but it ends before it can reach any real climax.
The production on this album is probably the part that's best. It's a very clean production, with very audible bass guitar and a lot of breathing room between the instruments. While songs like "Censored" might end up sounding very loud and awful had they been on another album (something like the last album I reviewed, Lacuna Coil's "Delirium," which was very guilty of this), Caleb Shomo's production style has made it so that the album is not overpoweringly loud, though there are still moments where there's quite audible clipping (especially in the shouted vocals).
So while the band's sound seemed to be going for the rawness of hardcore punk, as mentioned above, it's clear that the band has wound up with a very clean, mainstream-sounding record. One that will probably sound very good on the radio or being played to Warped Tour audiences. Though to my ears, the album really sounds like the kind of metalcore that Jared Dines parodies endlessly in his videos. With a style that's starting to run its course, it's hard to really stay fresh, and Beartooth unfortunately doesn't do much to stand out from the crowd.
Lyrics — 6
In keeping with the theme of the review so far, the lyrics on this record represent your pretty typical modern metalcore fare: lyrics about self-empowerment against some kind of repressive society ("Hated," "Loser"), anger and self-esteem issues ("Aggressive," "Fair Weather Friend," "Sick of Me"), and more generic meta-inspirational messages ("Rock Is Dead"). When Caleb sings lines like "I'm sick of being angry at all the wrong things/Keeping my head down to get through another day" and "It's really getting hard writing negative songs/Beating myself up to get another word out" in "Burnout," you pretty much get the gist of the entire record's lyrical theme in one tidy entry.
Vocally speaking, Caleb Shomo is a very competent vocalist with a good sense of timing, pitch and dynamics, even if the style of his voice is becoming a dime-a-dozen sound with regards to this particular style of metalcore. His vocals do very little for me, but I can definitely understand that he's talented, and his vocals seem to be produced in such a way that they don't sound overly processed or pitch-corrected, outside of a few backing vocals in the choruses.
Personally, I enjoy his harsh vocals better throughout the record, and especially on faster songs like "Always Dead," which features the most vocal chord shredding on the entire record, being the only tune that doesn't contain any clean vocals.
Overall Impression — 6
Beartooth seems to be more a victim of timing than from lackluster performance. With a few bigger bands like Asking Alexandria and Bring Me The Horizon seeing much greater success with their poppier metalcore explorations, Beartooth seems to be a bit much of a copycat act, doing very little to really distinguish itself from the pack. Ignoring that aspect of the record, there's still a lot to like here, like some really catchy melodies, some of the band's more uptempo pieces that have a great energy to them, and a very simple meat-and-potatoes production style that's a stark contrast to Caleb's former band.
Even if the band's style seems a bit self-parodic, there's no denying that the performances on this record are decent enough to get this band by, and there are some tunes on here with a reasonable amount of mainstream potential. Hopefully, the band gets some more coverage and turns this into a bit of musical evolution to keep up with their peers, but for the time being, they remain just a bit too close to being a "B-grade Bring Me The Horizon" to really break through. In a sea of sound-alike records, this one is just another record, and isn't really all that special. But I'm not going to come out saying I hated this record, since there were some good moments throughout it and it does have some endearing elements to it. And if you're a fan of this style of metalcore, you might find this album quite good as well. Ultimately, this album is enjoyable, but all too uninteresting, and very, very safe. Whether that's a good or bad thing is up to you.