Beartooth has been my favorite band for a few years now. When I first heard “Body Bag,” from 2015’s Disgusting, I was hooked — then I heard songs like “The In Between” and “Beaten in Lips” and realized this was a band with a lot of depth. Aggressive came out in 2016 with a whole new feel, and if Spinning Thoughts was around then I would have had it as my top album for that year.
With that said, 2018’s Disease was the year’s best album and it catapulted the band to new heights, including rock radio and circles outside of metal. I heard Beartooth was gearing up for a new release before the pandemic hit and kept reading articles about how Caleb Shomo was working on his heaviest, darkest, most amazing work yet. As hard as it was to believe that the music could get any better, Below delivers on that promise.
The album kicks off with the title track, and I don’t mean this to sound anti-climactic, but this is my favorite track on the album. The following three tracks were released as singles, and I’m really glad they held onto “Below” for the release. It starts off heavy and is driven by a feverish bass line. The chorus is Beartooth at their best, taking a rough and heavy song and adding in a powerful chorus that is easy to sing along to, but it’s the breakdown that really gets to me. It’s absolutely crushing all the way to the end and sets the tone for what’s to come.
“Devastation” first introduced many to the album, as it was the lead single. It’s a heavy, riff-driven song that starts at 100 miles per hour until another short, but incredibly engaging chorus bleeds through in half-time. “The Past is Dead” is my favorite of the pre-released singles. It opens with another Beartooth signature: the hollow, single voice chants. The riff behind the clean vocals in the verse drives the song along. The track is heavy, but sounds like one of the more radio-friendly tracks on the album due to the absence of dirty vocals. “Fed Up” is an upbeat track with quick, punchy shots in the verse and over-the-top guitar riffs that are heavy as hell. I love the chants heading into the chorus pushing a straight punk feel and makes me want to get up and go.
“Dominate” starts off with a fury of drums and heavy vocals and it only picks up from there. The highlight of the track is the first riff when the guitar and bass come in. This song picks up all the heavy that “The Past is Dead” left behind and may be the overall heaviest track on the record. The chorus has a glimpse of the clean, high range vocals, make no mistake, this track is not for the faint at heart. “No Return” picks up with a heavy riff and a slower tempo that lets the clean vocals in the verse pop without taking away from the power, and the echoed screams add another layer all together. “Phantom Pain” is an intense, riff-driven track. Unlike “Dominate,” it relents for a brief moment into a clean, resounding chorus before jumping back into the driving heavy riffs.
“Skin” hits a little different than the rest of the album with a heavy punk feel throughout and a straight beat. With limited heavy vocals, the song has a quick, driving pace that pushes through and a massive chorus that seems destined for radio. “Hell of It” was another pre-released single, dropping only a week or so before the record, and the biggest attraction for me is the amazing guitar work in the verse. The chorus has a unique call and response vocal that really differentiates it from the other tracks. “I Won’t Give It Up” is the album’s big anthem and houses a huge introduction with a massive sound. The verse picks up with clean vocals and a build to an upbeat chorus that already gives you the feel of a crowd singing along. This song is destined to be a massive hit.
“The Answer” is a slow, heavy track that is perfectly placed towards the end of the record. The intro has these wide, deep tone bass notes that made me scream out loud in excitement on my first listen (and the second, and the third…). The track picks up some clean vocals and a solid melody in between the heavy riff-driven transitions. Another banger for sure. “The Last Riff” closes the album out, and this song is just that — the last riff. No vocals, but the effects on the guitar in the beginning take the place nicely. There’s excellent musicianship going on here and it’s refreshing to experience an album end with something different. And again, did I mention it’s SUPER heavy?!
Below is easily Beartooth’s best album, and that’s saying something. The band gets heavier and adds more star power with each release. The album is available wherever you purchase/stream music now, and if you haven’t heard it yet, I highly recommend adding it to your weekend playlist — It will be the only thing on mine!