Album: Sick EP
For all the ups and downs, criticism, and for lack of a better term, “scene bullshit,” Ohio metalcore outfit Attack Attack! have faced over the years, their ever-rotating lineup has produced some of the most notable names in the current heavy music game. First came Austin Carlile, whose post-AA life has been covered endless with Of Mice & Men, and now Caleb Shomo returns with a new band and renewed passion for music that grabs you by the collar and refuses to let go. Beartooth may have only been active since late 2012, but their debut EP Sick boasts some of the catchiest, not to mention heaviest material we’ve heard from the alternative metalcore scene all year.
From the opening moments of “I Have A Problem,” the first song released by the former former Attack Attack! frontman as Beartooth and lead track on Sick, it’s clear a new force to reckon with has entered the heavy music game. The song explodes from zero to ten on the intensity scale within its opening moments, and then proceeds to devastate everything in its path with an arsenal of chugs and throat-searing vocals that you cannot help giving your full attention. Shomo’s ability to move from guttural growls to soaring chorus is something to admire, and perhaps the best aspect of Sick is that each track offers a unique sonic landscape for him to display his talents. It never strays to far from “heavy,” but there is more than enough variety to keep you coming back for more.
“Go Be The Voice” is a song heavy on religious themes and chugs. The hook repeats “Go be the voice of God, go live a life putting death to shame,” which Shomo expands upon throughout the track’s multiple verses. He retraces his early discovery of faith and how organized religion made him feel like an outcast, then explains how he harnessed the pain and anger felt from that rejection and used to strengthen his faith and outreach to others. It plays like battle cry for the downtrodden, and I dare it’s message is potent enough to reach those without any religious ties: Be yourself, no matter what, and encourage people to do the same.
Kicking off the second half of Sick, “Pick Your Poison” is the song most likely to encite riots when performed live. As with every song on the EP, the track depicts elements of Shomo’s life and uses them to build a message of progress and self-betterment without ever letting go of everything that has already happened. This one seems slightly more negative on the surface, with Shomo addressing dependency on comforts, but if you listen closely the frustration with a life of comfort is clear. The final breakdown/gang vocal moment may be the highlight of the EP’s heavy moments, with a call-and-response type lyrical structure that is sure to win over crowds worldwide.
With a title like “Set Me On Fire,” expectations for Beartooth’s closer are high before you even hit play. Thankfully, the band makes good on the outrageous title with thunderous drums and a song structure that squeezes every second of intensity out of the material. Where “Go Be The Voice” and “Pick Your Poison” were relatively straightforward heavy tracks, the verses on “Set Me on Fire” feel like The Chariot battling Every Time I Die while every Rise Records band looks on with envy. The hook is clean and direct, with Shomo’s soaring vocals riding above driving instrumentation, but as soon as the verse kicks back in so does the chaos. If any track is guaranteed to induce neck injuries from prolonged headbanging, it’s this one.
Having only been on the music radar for the better part of the last year, Beartooth have emerged from the grey of relatively unknown metalcore acts with one of the most ferocious EPs you’re likely to hear all year. Each of the four tracks contained on Sick offer evidence that the heavy music scene has found its new golden child, and those who consider themselves ahead of the curve would be wise to hop on their bandwagon now. I have no doubt by this time next year Beartooth will be a name on the tip of everyone’s tongue, and as long as they continue to release quality music this the sky is the limit for their career.
Review written by: James Shotwell (Follow him on Twitter)