Beartooth – ‘Disease’ (Album Review)
Working under the Beartooth banner, Caleb Shomo has always been up for a fight. His opponent comes cloaked in shadow, has no concrete physical form, and has claimed far too many victims. Its name is depression, the Disease referred to by this album’s title.
Albums themed around mental health and illness have always been needed and necessary, no more so than in our current culture. Thanks to a media landscape increasingly in tune with modern psychological understanding, we know that certain aspects of our daily lives are not conducive to helpful, constructive cognition, just as we recognise that smoking, fast food, and refusing to exercise all negatively impact our physical well-being. However, there are also plenty of ignorant idiots who continue to stigmatise, dismiss, and ridicule those who suffer from assorted issues including depression – and so discussions around mental health continue within a fog of confusion and misunderstanding more often than not.
Artists willing to stand up, speak, and even scream about mental health are obviously incredibly valuable – and Caleb Shomo is definitely one of them.
Unfortunately, albums like Disease tend to run the risk of being undermined by two-dimensional creative approaches. This release showcases some of Beartooth’s best-produced music to date, and the actual musical components that add up to a consistently crushing whole are usually fucking sick. Caleb Shomo knows how to pen an instant-classic metalcore beatdown, an anthemic and catchy chorus, and more than a few jawbreaking riffs. But Disease quickly induces a distracting sense of déjà vu due to its overreliance on predictably formulaic, often generic ideas and song structures.
The individual sections involved – especially the beatdowns – may be super-effective and undeniably badass, but they just don’t work as well when you hear them coming. It’s hard to shake the impression that Caleb Shomo is running out of ideas, which is odd considering how many alternative styles could be assimilated into what he’s already doing. The guy has more than mastered a certain angle of attack, but at this point Beartooth’s back catalogue is starting to look increasingly stagnant.
The most serious departure from the now-standardized Beartooth sound comes in the form of Believe. It’s an exceptionally generic slice of reheated radio rock, and it just isn’t good. Beartooth’s biggest strength is the ability to make listeners overlook repetitive, formulaic ideas through sheer quality, but there isn’t anything to redeem Believe in the slightest. Afterall and Used And Abused are also weak spots – the latter awkwardly so, given that it seems to address childhood trauma, one of the world’s most flat-out fucked problems – but they pale in comparison to Believe.
Disease, then, is a real mixed bag. Taken individually, most of these songs are pretty damn sick, but as an album, this set is hard to stick with from start to finish. The most important part of the whole situation is that Caleb Shomo is continuing to use this project to tackle his demons; the world truly is a better place with people like him in it, and the guy deserves to achieve as much respite as he possibly can. But given how self-limiting depression is, perhaps the best next step is to give the finger to those now-stifling creative constraints, and evolve into something new.
LTK RATING: 8/10
Pre-order Disease (out September 28) on iTunes.
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