I am too big of a fan of music to have a “Top 10 list”. There are a lot of albums I listen to on a weekly basis, a lot of albums I’ve listened to for years that have shaped me, and a lot of albums I discover through Spinning Thoughts and otherwise. But, if there was a gun to my head, I can assure you that Beartooth’s 2016 Aggressive would be included. Probably pretty high up. Anyone who knows me personally knows that I have been a huge, vocal supporter of the Columbus, Ohio metalcore band since the very first time I heard “Body Bag” off of 2014’s Disgusting. As complete as that album felt to me at the time, the band got better with Aggressive and obviously hasn’t peaked- with this week’s release of Disease (Red Bull Records), I believe the band has gotten even better.
This album is one of the rawest things I have ever heard. What I’ve always loved about the band is how they walk a tightrope between being a heavy thrash/metalcore band with elements of aggressive (pun intended) punk. Caleb’s vocals (and lyrics) are on point- he’s got an awesome voice and an equally chilling scream. Throw in some group vocals, heavy distortion, and out of this world harmonies and it isn’t hard to see why Beartooth symbolizes everything I love about music. From the onset “Greatness or Death” sets the tone for what’s to come. With a short acoustic intro, punishing heavy riffs, and an excellent vocal screaming breakdown the track sets the stage.
The lead single from this album is the title track “Disease”. It has been available for a few months now and was a great choice to showcase the direction of this collection. The hook is catchy and has all of the elements of an addictive track; a group vocal, anthem-like chant that you can picture rocking out to at a live show, excellent transitions between clean and distorted vocals, and a final chorus that is so much heavier than each one that preceded it to close off with the same in your face riff that opened the track. But “Disease”, in both album and song form, are so much more. This album is raw and personal. The lyrics are about real life struggles and personal demons, which isn’t new for the band. But this album feels different. It’s more intense.
One of the best examples of what I mean is the track “Manipultion”. The band actually uses distortion on vocals and guitars in succession to give off a gritty feel of emotion that really hits you. This song also features an intense group scream line in the chorus of the song. The emotion literally gives me chills. Another great example is the song “Bad Listener”. The lyrics are a plea- not quite an apology but a justification of miscommunication. You can feel the emotion in the lyrics and the music does a great job of building behind it to peak together. This song also has an absolutely EPIC breakdown.
My favorite song on the record is “You Never Know”. This song hits on all bases. The chorus is one of the most catchy lines I have ever heard. The harmonies in the chorus open up and sound majestic over a driving heavy riff. This song was also an early release that I have been jamming for months and each time it comes on, I can’t get it out of my head for days. The icing on the cake is the final chorus- after a heavy breakdown, the whole song clears to give way to the harmonies of the chorus in an a capella, 5 second snippet of glory, before heading back in for the big finish.
Another track along this vein is “Afterall”. This song is a bit more reserved- a reprieve from the heavy opening run of the album. It has another captivating refrain and showcases (mostly) clean vocals. “Believe” also shows the band’s lighter side, with a really cool chanting intro that continues throughout.
Even when the songs have clear, ringing hooks with resounding clean vocals, for the most part they are heavy and unrelenting. Some great examples are “Enemy” and “Infection”. Maybe the heaviest track on the album is “Used and Abused”. This track is driving and absolutely unforgiving from beginning to end.
Disease may be the best album from Beartooth to date. If you love the band as much as I do, make sure to check it out immediately. If you’re not familiar with Beartooth, do yourself a favor and get a copy of all three of these amazing albums and lock yourself in a room for the weekend. If anyone needs me, that’s where I’ll be!
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