There is definitely something to be said for getting back to basics, or getting to the core for a more fitting idiom wherein subsets of the hardcore sub-genre of punk is concerned. This has been the de facto mission statement of Ohio-born melodic metalcore purveyors Beartooth since their 2012 conception. In many respects, the designation of metalcore is something of a misnomer in this particular band’s case, and largely manifests as subtle remnants from the older metalcore act Attack Attack!, of which the former act is basically an offshoot. Formally speaking, the craftsmanship at play with this quintet follows some of the stylistic devices that the American metalcore scene inherited from the Gothenburg melodic death metal sound, but most of the technical elements have been stripped away to reveal something a bit more primordial, yet still anthem-like in presentation.
Needless to say, a streamlined and fanfare oriented approach with a nasty edge such as this would be heavy conducive, nay, almost dependent upon an active audience in a live context. Due to the still lingering restrictions from the 2020 pandemic, this breakdown-happy fold opted to go the live stream route once again on July 14th, 2021 to deliver an hour’s worth of mosh-pit fodder with an infectious hook under the title of The Journey Below. The tone that would be struck was one of a surprisingly dark character, in contrast to the comical yuletide antics that August Burns Red would deliver late last year, featuring haunting ambient sounds and creepy visuals of a dark forest or a skeletal rendering of death functioning as segues between songs. Likewise, the stage itself would be a marvel of pyrotechnics and elaborate lighting schemes that would serve to augment what is otherwise a barebones presentation after the heart of the early punk rock ideal.
For what these musicians might have been holding back in terms of technical chops, their level of rhythmic precision combined with an overflowing sense of enthusiasm and drive were a veritable force of nature. Opting for a pair of raw yet groovy crushing machines in “Below” and “Devastation”, both anthems being featured for the first time in a live setting, the energy level reached a fever pitch right from the concert’s onset and would continue onward for the next hour with very little in the way of respite. Nevertheless, the generally mid-paced, fist-pumping character of the former would be contrasted with a more upbeat though generally tempered rage in the latter, setting the stage for a set that would generally favor the band’s recently released studio LP “Below.” Other offerings making their debut on the stage in real time would include a high octane scream fest in “Dominate” that would see this outfit flirting a bit more with a metallic Gothenburg approach, alongside a speedy d-beat machine in “Hell Of It” to further drive the same point home.
Though the emphasis was pretty clearly placed upon the newer material, with a demonic sounding voice over often introducing them no less, Beartooth would also make a good showing with older material. In fact, front man and mastermind Caleb Shomo would make a point of cuing the online audience of during one of his asides that it was time for some older material, which would see the band delivering a pretty auspicious 1, 2, 3 punch in “The Lines”, “Beaten In Lips” and “Body Bag”, each being the first, second and third offerings off the band’s 2014 debut outing “Disgusting” no less. These offerings would be equally as forceful as anything else featured during the event, though the stylistic demeanor clearly points to a more old school hardcore influence, dredging up about as many parallels to the likes of Agnostic Front as that of All That Remains or Killswitch Engage. Other highlight moments would include a solid rendition of newer offering “Fed Up” with Shomo also acting as a third guitarist, and a brilliant metalcore-infused jam session and sendoff to close the show in “The Last Riff”, which would see the instrumentalists showcasing a greater degree of technical chops, especially drummer Connor Denis.
While this brand of punk-infused rocking mayhem works best with a sizable audience in attendance, Beartooth pretty clearly made the best of what they had to work with and delivered a top notch performance that surely made the lives of those still in the throes of lockdown fatigue a little bit brighter, the dark demeanor of the presentation notwithstanding. Though very much the brainchild of Caleb Shomo, the whole lineup played an integral part in bringing these songs to life, with the particular case of bassist Oshie Bichar being of note in a supporting vocal capacity, as his input occasionally resembled that of an additional lead vocalist, both when answering Shomo’s primal shouts in like fashion, or in providing the top harmonies that would fill out the chorus sections. Indeed, for all the pounding grooves and impressive drum work going on, this fold functioned almost as a veteran barbershop quintet once the chorus segments kicked in. A boon for traditional metal, hardcore and newer melodic metalcore fans alike, Beartooth’s latest live stream event was one not to be missed by any member of either fan base.
Below (Live debut) / Devastation (Live debut) / Hated / Sick of Me / Fed Up / Dominate (Live debut) / The Lines / Beaten in Lips / Body Bag / Hell Of It (Live debut) / Skin / You Never Know / Bad Listener / Disease / In Between / The Past Is Dead / The Last Riff (Live Debut. Band Jam)