On today’s episode of ‘Fast-Food: The Music Edition’, we welcome Beartooth and their greasy, artery-clogging new album, Below. Beartooth‘s most recent effort is one that is a carbon copy of everything they’ve done before, but with a slightly different type of sauce. Imagine you had a newly advertised burger in which the only difference from other burgers is that it has spicy mustard instead of regular mustard on it; it’s the same damn burger. That is exactly what Below is like. If you’ve had one fast-food burger, you’ve had them all (Five Guys and In-N-Out excluded), and Below is no different musically. But I will say that I can understand why people enjoy fast-food and consume it on a daily basis – the same goes for Below.
You can likely tell by now that this review is going to be fast-food themed, and for that, I apologize. This was honestly the most natural way for me to talk about the new Beartooth record in a way that makes total sense. Long story short, like all their music, Below is a forgettable collection of tracks that sound as if they’re hot off the assembly line, just like a Big Mac from McDonald’s. Nearly every single song follows the same exact structure and formula, so much so that it is impossible for me to overlook whatsoever. Not to mention the fact that the lyrics are completely devoid of any real substance. Beartooth, and by that I mean Caleb Shomo, knows that this is what people want and crave, so that is exactly what he provides on his newest release.
Seriously, it’s uncanny how obvious the recycled song structures and melodies are throughout Beartooth‘s previous works, and that trend isn’t broken here on Below. I honestly thought their previous record Disease was the worst offender when it came to that, and here comes Below to take the crown. It wouldn’t be a proper Beartooth song if it didn’t start out with Shomo either shouting or whispering a brief line or two that includes the song title before breaking into the song’s main riff, er, I mean power chord progression. “Below”, “Dominate”, “Fed Up”, “The Answer”, and “I Won’t Give It Up” are 5 songs too many that are guilty of this (nearly half the album I will say).
If by some miracle the intro doesn’t shout out the song title as Pitbull does in his music, the rest of the song is the same as the last. Your blistering intro leads to a back and forth between a soft verse and a cheesy chorus, and then it’ll close with your mandatory breakdown thrown in there and a final chorus to top it all off. That is it, that’s the whole album. It baffles me how predictable and shallow the songs are, and even more so that Beartooth actually put out another record that is another rehashing of what they’ve already done before, time and time again. Same thing, just a new look.
As I mentioned earlier regarding the different sauces, the ‘exclusive’ sauce that makes Below ‘different’ from its predecessors is that it is grungier and heavier in overall tone. With that being said, I cannot deny that it sounds badass, with the exception of the drums lacking any oomph. Purely sonically, not quality-wise, Below rivals Disgusting for their heaviest record. This album has a good balance between vocal melodies that get stuck in your head and savage screams and breakdowns. Even if it all sounds the same, Shomo knows how to write a hook, I can’t deny that.
Closing track “The Last Riff” was actually a breath of fresh air (although that isn’t saying much), as it is a nearly five-minute instrumental breakdown-of-sorts. This song wasn’t something I’d expect from Beartooth, and it saddens me to finally hear something relatively exciting be the final song on the record. But after giving this record more than enough listens, I can confidently say that this is in fact the last Beartooth riff I will subject my ears to.
I’ll admit that I do have a craving for some fast-food every once in a blue moon, and while the food definitely hits the spot as I am indulging myself, I am not particularly proud of myself fifteen minutes later; the same goes for Beartooth‘s music. This is the type of music that only fulfills the need for instant gratification, but it doesn’t help that every song is the same damn thing so I’m already fed up after a song or two. Only when you start to look into what actually makes up this music, do you realize that it is lacking any genuine substance and flavor. The music has nothing more to offer than the catchy, albeit recycled, choruses and wicked screams, just like a cheap burger has nothing more to offer other than the fact that it simply fills your stomach.
If you want nothing more from your music other than it being catchy and heavy, Beartooth is exactly what you’re looking for. Just like fast-food, the music here is cheap, easily accessible, and gets the job done. If you’re looking for soul-food to fill a void in your heart or take you on a journey to flavortown, though, you’re definitely in the wrong place. If Beartooth was a fast-food chain, they’d be the pinnacle among the others (again, sans Five Guys and In-N-Out), but that isn’t necessarily setting a high bar as fast-food is in the lower echelon of food anyways. With that being said, Beartooth certainly knows how to put together a greasy burger that’ll have people lining up outside the McDonald’s each and every day.
You tell me: am I expecting too much from Beartooth in hoping that they’d ever show any inkling of musical creativity and authenticity whatsoever? That doesn’t seem like something too wild to ask in my opinion. With that set aside, I fully understand why many people enjoy Beartooth and why this group is as successful as they are. At face value, the music is fun, catchy, and pretty gnarly, as most -core music generally is, but it is inherently superficial. Despite that, it couldn’t be more blatantly obvious that Below is purely a product-to-be-sold rather than an artistic method of expression. What else can you expect from a band in which all the creative and songwriting decisions are in the hands of a single person and the rest of the members only exist to play the rest of the instruments in a live setting and in music videos…