As they prepare to head back out on tour, Beartooth warmed up with a dark and deafening trip into the world that their new album 'Below' was forged. It was unreal.
Photos: Chris Heidel
When you're a band like Beartooth, the live arena is where you thrive. It's where you cut your teeth, let out your innermost emotions and, more than anything, fuck shit up. So not being able to experience that for the past year and a half has been challenging. It's also clear listening to the band's sensational new album 'Below' that it wasn't just difficult on a professional level either, with some of the band's most dark and twisted tracks coming from the void that Caleb Shomo found himself existing in.
Things look a bit brighter now, though. And as they prepare to head back out on the road across the US, the band have put together a warm-up of sorts via the medium of a very special livestream.
But they aren't just warmed up. They are on fucking fire.
Presented in a purple haze with visions of snakes, hooded figures, sneering skulls and hearts pumping out blood leering at you from all angles, there is something truly terrifying about the atmosphere in which the band are playing this set. Like a physical embodiment of the mental landscape in which 'Below' was forged, you can feel the fear and discomfort from the get-go. And then, as the thunderous riff of 'Below' kicks in, you're reminded that this is, in fact, a gig and not just a horror show.
And there are so many things to pick up on.
First off, the band sound fucking ravenous. The deliciously overblown nature of the band's production that they set out to achieve with 'Below' has been brought to life in such a delectable way. Like Motörhead at their most deafening, it's a mix that is impossible to ignore and even harder to deny. 'Devastation' sounds utterly debauched, 'Dominate' sounds powerful and 'Hell Of It' is just downright evil. To then hear older jams performed through the same lens only makes them more intense. 'Hated' feels all the more despondent, 'Bad Listener' more punishing and the triple-headed venom of 'The Lines', 'Beaten In Lips' and 'Bodybag' have simply never sounded better. It's a credit to the band for bringing the songs that helped them get here feel as volatile and vicious as anything that they have produced since.
It's also clear just how comfortable Beartooth are on stages as gigantic as this now. The years spent honing their craft, from clubs to arenas, has paid off in allowing them to bring that sweat-stained energy on a global scale. And even with all of the pyro and visuals clawing for your attention, the whole affair still feels incredibly intimate. Every riff, every bridge, every chorus is delivered with insatiable excitement by the band as well. You can tell how much they have missed this.
Then there is Caleb. Oh, Caleb fucking Shomo, how do you do it? From the throat-ripping levels he reaches during 'In Between' to the complete loss of inhibition he demonstrates during 'You Never Know', he is in the form of his career right now. He even picks up a guitar of his own on the thrashing 'Fed Up' and world-ending 'The Last Riff'. The sheer joy radiating from him throughout this set is truly infectious, and he has never looked more at home conducting this riff symphony than he does in this very moment.
What Beartooth have done with 'The Journey Blow' is both perfect their performance but also create a visual environment in which their music can live. 'Below' was made at some of the darkest points of the last year, and throughout this show, it feels like you are there, taking in the sights and sounds of the very bottom of the barrel. It's dark and disturbing and often takes you completely by surprise. You are a part of this, and you are experiencing what it was like for Caleb to reach his limit during the forging of this era. That's not an easy thing to do, but they make this level of worldbuilding seem effortless.
But the whole purpose of this incredible display is summed up in one poignant moment.
During a near-tearful speech before an emotional run-through of 'Disease', Caleb admits not knowing if he would get through 2020 at all. But then proclaims that rock and roll will always find a way, and it's the glue that keeps us all together. In a time where connection has been so linear, and we have struggled to feel that fire deep inside of us that helps us get through the day, music has been the medicine. And that's what this show is genuinely all about. Sharing in the chaos and catharsis of drums, bass and guitar that make you lose all control even for a moment of violent euphoria. Screaming till your throat stings and your lungs feel like they are going to cave in. Banging your head with complete disregard for the state of your neck. Those are the things that make us feel alive. And when you've seen what the bottom looks like, just like Beartooth have, clawing your way back up through music as powerful as this doesn't get any better.
That's what makes heavy music so exciting. That's what makes Beartooth such a special band. And that is what is going to make the return to live music so sensational.
Beartooth were recently on the cover of Rock Sound. You can pick up a copy right now, alongside some world exclusive merch, from right HERE