Below: Have Beartooth got what it takes to take Hardcore Punk to the mainstream?

Columbus formed hardcore punk/metalcore band Beartooth has achieved a lot in their nine years together. Being a band for less than a decade, they’ve released four studio albums and have toured around the globe, amassing a pretty large, dedicated fanbase. Having said all of that, I haven’t checked them out all that much. I know a couple of their songs that I listen to every so often but generally speaking, their style of music isn’t something I usually explore. For Overtone’s very first New Music Monday, I thought Beartooth would be the ideal artist to kick off with. 

The album’s title track starts out with a whole lot of fuzz and reverb before a steady drumbeat and some hardcore style screamed vocals that lead us into a HEAVY riff. The vocals get cleaner through the verse – Caleb Shomo’s voice being pretty punky and actually preferable to his screams in this writer’s humble opinion. The chorus slows things down with a catchy melody, even if it does come out of nowhere a little. The screamed lines at the end of the chorus are pretty great too and lead perfectly into that awesome guitar riff again. We head into a quick guitar riff coming out of the second chorus, accompanied by more screamed vocals. It builds up pretty perfectly into a sludgy, slower breakdown riff; this is definitely something I’d like to hear live. It’s again accompanied by more harsh vocals which I enjoyed more – maybe I’m starting to warm up to them? A great, heavy song to open an album on.

The lead single ‘Devastation’ opens on another huge scream and keeps the album heavy. The effects overall add a slight Avatar feel to it. The harsh vocals stop again when it comes to the clean, catchy chorus – the pop-punk type vocals giving me an earworm for the rest of the day. We get a great, low drumbeat coming out of the second chorus before a basic, chuggy riff builds it all back up again into a MASSIVE breakdown. Everything from the screamed callout of the song title to the slow-ish, basic but heavy guitar riff ties together amazingly well. We get another final chorus before the breakdown comes back around to finish the track. I preferred this one to the previous song and can definitely see why it was chosen as a single.

‘The Past is Dead’ was another pre-release track from the album and is the lightest so far. Opening on a catchy vocal hook/chant is always going to win over the hardcore-punk crowds. The lower harmonies over the vocals in the lighter verse are a nice touch and lead into a fantastic chorus, reminding me of A Day To Remember – it’s the most “arena-filling”, catchy chorus for sure. In comparison to other breakdowns on the album, this track’s breakdown is pretty tame and feels more like a filler-bridge. A stripped-back chorus leads to a final chorus to end the song. This was a simple yet pretty great song and another good choice for a single. This one easily made the playlist!

‘Fed Up’ opens on some more cringy, adolescent-style lyrics, again channelling their inner ADTR. At least it builds in to a pretty good, fast, hardcore punk riff that drops in and out for every vocal line – like a call and response between vocals and instruments to add an extra layer of dynamics. It’s another pretty basic song, building to a big, open pop-punk chorus. The only thing that separates it from the likes of Sum 41 is the heavier, de-tuned guitar riff at various intervals throughout. Oh and the usual breakdown, but again this one was nothing compared to the first two tracks – even if it was a pretty good riff. A final chorus and heavier breakdown (again) finishes this one off and, in comparison to the previous tracks on the album so far, this felt like the weakest.

‘Dominate’ keeps the vibe of the album going with screamed vocals and a crazy low guitar riff; it could be classed as a thrash riff in terms of the intensity and speed. The chorus is slower and features some generally cleaner vocals, although the screams are still present. There’s a crazy blast beat between the chorus and the second verse too; it blows my mind that drummers can play that fast. Another fantastic breakdown callout scream leads to an interesting breakdown, the riff being unconventional but pretty damn enjoyable. If anything, the breakdown doesn’t last long enough and quickly heads back into a final chorus before the blast beat and heavy outro finishes things off. This was by far the best of the heavier songs so far and easily makes the playlist.

‘No Return’ keeps things heavy for a moment with another awesome opening riff but outside of that, it’s another clean vocalled, slower radio-friendlier track. It’s not bad at all but there are better versions of this type of song, some of which are on this album. Again, the lyrics get a little cringy for me at times, too. ‘Phantom Pain’ gives off some more hardcore feeling through the verses, but again has a massively pop-punk chorus – a format that (again) has been done better on the opening two tracks of the album. Both songs are good, but just a little generic at this point. Either that or I’m starting to get sick of the album. ‘Skin’ is the closest thing to a ballad on the album but it is also their most ADTR-y song. Apart from a decent chorus, I have very little interest in this track.

‘Hell of It’ is the last of the pre-released songs and brings the heaviness of the album back with a vengeance by opening on a great guitar riff and some awesome harsh vocals. It leads into a pretty decent, quick riff and the harsh vocals stick around almost throughout this time. The chorus is pretty damn catchy and may be my favourite on the album, perhaps my favourite Beartooth track of all time. The breakdown’s mega-low guitar riff sounds a tad evil – much more to my liking. Playlisted!

Unfortunately, the final few tracks go back to being A Day to Remember-like. On paper or as an isolated listen, I like the songs ‘I Won’t Give Up’ and ‘The Answer’ but both remind me of slightly heavier ‘radio rock’ that has been done countless times before. Meanwhile, ‘The Last Riff’ is just a nearly five minute instrumental track revolving mainly around one guitar riff. It’s a good, heavy, almost epic riff, but a pretty boring and uneventful way to finish an album.

Overall: I enjoyed this more than I expected to. Would it make my album of the year consideration? Hell no. But it has made me more of a fan of the band, so that’s a good thing at least. There were some damn good songs scattered through here, but also a fair few just plane average ones. Still, I’ll probably be going back and checking out their older stuff as a result, so I guess overall it’s a pretty positive result and a pretty decent album.

Score: 6/10

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