American Metallers Beartooth Release Vicious New Album ‘Below’
Vocalist, songwriter and producer Caleb Shomo talks drive-in concerts and the hidden message in their record names so far
If you arrange every Beartooth album title in chronological order, you might just find out that the American hardcore/metal band were prescient about the pandemic. Including their fourth and latest album, there’s Disgusting (2014), Aggressive (2016), Disease (2018) and now, Below. As founder and principal songwriter what it all could mean and he says, “You’ll find out when the next record drops.”
Below, which released on June 25th via Red Bull Records, is yet another heavyweight addition to Columbus, Ohio-based Beartooth. There are aggro riffs and breakdowns aplenty but also gigantic, stadium-ready sing-along passages led by Shomo and co. It’s also their first album with touring guitarist Will Deely taking on a full-time role in Beartooth. Songs like “The Last Riff” and “Devastation” are likely to be high on adrenaline, making for stomping new inclusions for their forthcoming live performances.
In an interview with Rolling Stone India, Shomo talks about Deely, the one Wisconsin drive-in concert they performed at in October last year and how the pandemic impacted the making of Below. Excerpts:
How have the times been treating you guys so far? Beartooth were among the artists who did a drive-in concert, right? What was that experience like?
The times have been up and down as of now, it’s very exciting to think shows are coming back soon and we have things on the books and vaccines rolling out and things are slowly coming back to normal in the US. Obviously, there’s still a lot more than needs to be done but it’s great to see some progress.
We did do a drive-in concert, it was very bizarre but very fun. We’re used to people being on the floors in mosh pits, not so much sitting in the back of pick-up trucks and standing on the hoods of their cars watching a show, but to be able to do a show during the pandemic? That was amazing.
This record’s got a lot of those gigantic singalong passages but also doesn’t shy away from being really heavy with the breakdowns. What kind of balance were you guys going for with Below?
Overall I wanted it to be a much heavier album, I was just in the vibe with heavy tracks and wanted to have a really heavy guitar riff driven record and I think the chorus are just a natural part of Beartooth, every song needs a chorus in some capacity to make it a Beartooth song and that’s something I don’t try to stray away from. But yeah, just wanted to go a little bit heavier with the music and the tones as well.
In addition to songs like “Devastation” and “Dominate” and many others on the album, I really enjoyed what was going on in “The Last Riff.” What was the intent with that track like?
Beartooth records have always been closed with some sort of different emotional moment that changes the vibe from the rest of the album and instead of doing a whole lyrical composition as the focus, I just decided to try to capture the emotion instrumentally and it ended up becoming my favorite song on the record.
In terms of making this album and finishing it off, did the pandemic force your hand to execute it in a different way?
Yeah, I definitely intended on doing this one a little more with just myself but I didn’t intend on completely doing it myself, the pandemic really made co-writing either very different or difficult or just not possible at all, same with working with outside producers. So, I just kind of went for it and did it the old fashioned way in my basement. Recorded, Mixed, and Mastered it all myself, the usual.
This is also the band’s first record with Will permanently part of Beartooth. I’m guessing you’re all raring to go and get this record out on the road soon?
Yes! This is the first record with Will being official. He has played with us multiple times prior, so it felt fitting and felt like he earned his spot in the band. He’s also a great friend and a really great guitar player and we’re very excited to have him in the band and we cannot wait to get on the road. The fact that we have tour dates up is really mind blowing, but very exciting!
Lyrically, I feel like this is just as intense a record as the previous ones, perhaps just as dark. What is it like tapping into that space and emerging with words that are just as impactful as what you’ve penned down before?
Honestly, I rarely try and well on past emotions and past lyrics when I’m writing, I just try to focus on whatever I and feeling in that moment and keeping it current and for this record, it was writing during a very brutal time emotionally and I think that was really reflected and it become sort of a timestamp of the pandemic.
What else is coming up through 2021?
Just getting out the record and playing shows so hopefully that all moves forward smooth and safe.
Watch the video for “Skin.” Listen to ‘Below’ on more platforms here.