Beartooth’s previous release, “Disease,” was one of my favorite albums of 2018, so to see a new release by them in 2021, to put it simply: I was amped. With this, however, I was nervous for it to live up to those expectations because I loved “Disgusting,” and then, didn’t have the same connection to “Aggressive.” I wanted this release to dive more into their approach to hardcore music more than ever (I feel that that genre is slipping away), and you know what? “Below” does the genre justice.
One thing can be said from the outright: if you love a good hardcore instrumental breakdown, this will be the album for you. Beartooth is not messing around on this record. Honestly, upon my first listen, my first reaction was that this record leaned more towards being aggressive in terms of instrumental and vocal approach rather than the latter. With this in mind, it is often heard that Beartooth is sinking into the instrumental lines with a dark atmospheric sound. This helps to complement the screamed lyrics that are used in a 60/40 balance on the record.
Now, the band does include their catchy sung vocal lines- primarily in the choruses of the songs. This provides a nice sense of contrast among the tracks because it allows us to lean into the grooves that the instrumentals are creating and grinding into, but then, it gives us ,the listeners, that moment to lean back and just sing along with a catchy tune.
The homorhythmic sections of the Beartooth selections give the most impact. When the instrumentation and lyrical lines come together (and sometimes just all of the instrumentalists playing the same thing), this startles the ears of the listener because of the grand impact it provides. The songs will be moving along then- BAM- everything is on the same page, and you can’t listen to anything but what the band is presenting at that moment. This technique is very common in hardcore music, but with the contrast of the characteristic Beartooth catchy melody, it feels unique to the band, in these instances.
As one moves through the 12 track record, it can be said that if you are a fan of Beartooth, this album will check off those boxes. This can be extremely positive or negative in some instances. In general, the record is well-written and matches the brand, but it does sound incredible similar to their discography. Meaning, there isn’t a song on the album that just screams innovative and new for the artist. To me, that doesn’t change my overall assessment of the work, but that does matter to some people, so it is worth the mention.
Overall, I am happy to see another strong candidate for hardcore music because it seems most artists in this genre are verging away from the more aggressive approach to instrumentals and melodic lines. I would’ve liked to see some sort of innovative edge for the band, but you know, if it’s not broke- don’t fix it.
I am giving this record a 4 out of 5 stars.
*”Below” was released on June 25th, 2021 through Red Bull Records.