Review by Greg Maki
A metalcore record has no business being this good in 2018, but that just goes to show how far passion and honesty can take you.
It’s been 10 to 15 years since the subgenre’s heyday, with many of the acts that emerged during that time falling by the wayside. Then along came Beartooth in late 2012, and over the course of an EP and two full-lengths mixing hardcore, metal and punk rock, the Columbus, Ohio-based band has built a sizable following for itself.
Album number three, “Disease,” delivers exactly what one would expect from Beartooth—the aforementioned sound, which blends its various elements even more seamlessly than before, laying the foundation for the brutally honest lyrics of Caleb Shomo, who once again recorded all the vocals, guitars, bass and drums, and mixed the album, with assistance from executive producer Nick Raskulinecz (Foo Fighters, Alice in Chains, Ghost, Rush).
The topic is depression, which couldn’t care less about your Spotify numbers or how many sold-out concerts you’ve played. But instead of reveling in misery like an emo band, Shomo takes a more introspective route. Even as he sinks to the darkest depths inside himself, he offers the listener some comfort with his first words on the album opener “Greatness or Death”: “I promise you there’s times I’m not so sad/Some days I get will even out the bad.” So even when he sings “I finally got so sick, there is no cure” on the closing “Clever,” it seems he’s telling the listener that no matter how bleak it gets, it doesn’t have to be the end. Depression is insidious, and it may never go away completely, but perhaps acknowledging that and recognizing your own unhealthy coping mechanisms can provide a little relief. “Will clarity become the cure for my disease?” Shomo asks on the title track.
Undoubtedly, the emotional heft of Beartooth’s songs is largely responsible for the strong bond the band has with many of its fans. Shomo has a real knack for taking deeply personal thoughts and opening them up for so many others to embrace. Though the stigma still is being chipped away, he’s singing—and screaming and shouting—about near-universal themes. “I guess I’m just human after all,” he sings on “Afterall,” which I feel is the most important line of the record, for being human, being alive, doesn’t come down to winning or losing. Sometimes survival is the greatest victory.
(Red Bull Records, September 28, 2018)