Live Review: Beartooth @ Rock City
Heavyweights of the metal scene Beartooth deliver a rousing live performance which is as introspective as it is a shared experience.
Caleb Shomo has been at the forefront of the metalcore and hardcore scene since he was a fresh faced 14 year old, armed only with a keyboard, some hair straighteners and a v-neck as part of the now (unfortunately?) defunct Attack Attack!. Attack Attack! – derided and adored in equal measures (except maybe less adored at the time) – undeniably made their mark on the scene. Heralded as the kings of ‘Crabcore’, the ‘10s metalcore scene was essentially compromised of slews of other bands – including Asking Alexandria and Capture the Crown – attempting to emulate their frankly polarizing smorgasbord of back-flipping, spin-kicking poppy synths, guttural screams and auto-tuned breakdowns.
All of this has meant that the world, and especially followers of the scene, have been able to watch Shomo grow as a person alongside his music. Now comprised of scene heavyweights including City Light’s Oshie Bichar and Like Moths To Flames’ Zach Huston, Beartooth graced Nottingham’s Rock City for the first time on the second stop of their huge Disease tour, following the release of their latest album.
The show was kicked off by Higher Power, a hardcore punk band hailing from Leeds who’ve recently released their sophomore effort 27 Miles Underwater on heavy music label giants, Roadrunner Records. Despite their establishment within the hardcore punk scene and a debut album already under their belts, the crowd did not seem that familiar with their work. However, their blend of hardcore punk and thrash metal, laced with melodic echoes of 90s sludge, was particularly well-received; front man Jimmy Wizard was a strong, energetic stage presence, interacting with the crowd between each song. Saving the best for last, they closed with Low Season – a strong, gritty track, with the catchy ‘so low’ refrain prompting a bubbling of mosh pits to emerge, hinting at what was to come as the night went on.
Momentum was not lost with the emergence of The Amity Affliction, another huge name in metalcore. In fact, the dates of their previous tours were emblazoned across the backs of many members of the crowd, with some seemingly in attendance just to see them. Although perhaps only against the sheer assault of energy provided by the bands either side, frontman Birch seemed to lack energy towards the opening of the set, picking up as they worked their way into their back-catalogue to deliver career defining Pittsburgh and Don’t Lean On Me. Despite this, bassist Stringer’s clean vocals more than made up for any lack of exuberance on the frontman’s part.
'Before the first words could even be uttered, the first wave of crowd surfers had already pushed forward, and pits began to open up'.
The crowd buzzed with anticipation as the stage was prepared for each act, with Down with the Sickness, Chop Suey and other staples from every 14 year old’s emo phase blasting from the sound system. Beartooth wasted no time in utilizing this charged energy, bursting onto the stage with fan favourite The Lines. Before the first words could even be uttered, the first wave of crowd surfers had already pushed forward, and pits began to open up. They initially played a mix of crowd pleasers from 2014’s Disgusting, including I Have A Problem and Beaten in Lips, alongside new cuts including Afterall and Bad Listener. Old or new, single or deep cut, each lyric rose from the crowd to meet Shomo’s clean, melodic vocals, shot through with characteristic raw, jagged screams. Manipulation was chased by Connor Dennis’ drum solo – a frenzied ball of energy and cymbals – allowing for the rest of the band to take a well-deserved break for a few moments before they launched back into the frenzy themselves.
Shomo urged the members of the crowds to throw their arms around one another, delivering an important message to those who feel alone or outcast, hoping that they may always be able to find refuge and community in music, as he has done.
'Throughout the evolution and constant line up development of the band; it’s a project for Shomo to deal with his own personal struggles, work through them, lay bare his flaws, but also just simply to enjoy himself'.
As the guitars closed out on Body Bag, Shomo disclosed the fact that he had, only three days ago, been struggling with his own suicidal tendencies. The project had originally begun as at outlet for him – mastered, recorded and performed in order for him to work through his own (extensively reported on) struggles including drug and alcohol abuse, without there being the pressure to deliver a certain sound in order to make sales. It was clear to see that the raw spirit of this has lived on in Beartooth, throughout the evolution and constant line up development of the band; it’s a project for Shomo to deal with his own personal struggles, work through them, lay bare his flaws, but also just simply to enjoy himself. Thematically, Disease tackles the same issues as the previous pieces of work, head on, no holds barred, with a seamless and masterful dance between an anthemic chorus and heavy, thundering riffs, but somehow leaving the listener uplifted and encouraged.
Live, Beartooth is an immersive experience – a kind of therapy for everyone, including the band themselves.