I was a bit iffy on Beartooth’s debut album Disgusting (2014). On the one hand the metalcore meets pop-punk approach worked, but the production was too polished and syrupy. When vocalist Caleb Shomo (formerly of Attack Attack!) would deliver one of his big, layered, soaring choruses I often winced at how overdone it seemed. But it was crazy popular. The videos from that that album each have over three million views, with the track “In Between” (the sugar-iest one of all) topping out near four million.
That’s why I was really surprised when I heard the title track/first single from their just-released second album Aggressive. The blend of styles come together more like a nineties punk band, and Shomo’s clean vocals are mid-range with a more natural sound. Sonically the rest of album follows suit. The punk and hardcore elements are pushed to the front, with riff styles that give nods to classic rock and Swedish death metal. Shomo’s formerly-saccharine choruses now have a warm in-the-room resonance. The song styles are also surprisingly diverse. With a writing assist from ex-Goldfinger frontman and mega producer John Feldmann, they range from hardcore (“Burnout”), to alt rock (“Hated”), to pop-punk (“However You Want It Said”).
Beartooth are a strange entity in loud music. They tour with metalcore bands like Of Mice and Men, but also with bands like Slipknot and Suicidal Tendencies. While they may piss off the average headbanger, they have an appeal to an audience who dip their toes in different pools. Perhaps Behemoth is too heavy for them, but maybe Green Day is too soft. Regardless of those who may bemoan their presence, Aggressive is a well-written and sharply-produced album, and a definite step forward for Beartooth.
The band have upcoming tour dates in Europe, Australia, and Japan, as well as a number of festival dates including an appearance at Heavy Montreal on August 7th. Aggressive is available now and you can watch the video for the title track here.
Written for A Journal of Musical Things