Back when Caleb Shomo was fronting electro-metal unit Attack! Attack!, nobody really expected him to forge a path of his own in heavy music. When he started making club tracks under the name Class, nobody was expecting any kind of Skrillexian success from some dude collecting recording gear in a basement in Columbus, Ohio. Of course, when Shomo unveiled his one-man demolition squad Beartooth back in 2014, heads didn’t turn as much as they twisted right off. Disgusting was both a furious and curious debut, considering how the multi-instrumentalist/vocalist was quite retiring offstage. So it was inevitable that the second Beartooth album would be dialed down significantly on the basis of achieving commercial success and preserving the psychic health of the dude who made it.
Fortunately, that assumption is the bona fide dictionary definition of bullshit. Aggressive is probably the most compelling statement you’re going to hear for the validity of heavy rock music in 2016. Shomo ducks and weaves his way through moments that are downright commercial (“Sick Of Me,” “However You Want It Said”), teeming with throat-shearing bluster (“Always Dead”) or the kind of thing that gets you fitted for a straitjacket (“Censored”). And if you’re looking for a new anthem to articulate your frustration of the scene, Shomo’s got you covered: “Rock Is Dead” is on point in its conviction (“I’d rather be dead than bored out of my mind/If rock ’n’ roll’s dead, you can kill me right now”). The only way this song could be better is if you were hearing it while standing in front of Shomo and his stentorian band, just as you put your head back and await some moshpit dentistry.
After pummeling listeners over the course of the first 11 tracks, Shomo saves his most psyche-baring moment for the end. Accompanying himself with only a slightly detuned electric guitar, he delivers “King Of Anything,” a slow-burning paen of self-loathing that is the perfect antihero anthem. Those 131 seconds completely explode the myth that blast-beats and decibels are the best ways to convey tension. And that’s why Shomo and co. are so compelling: Beartooth might not save rock ’n’ roll, but they will remind you of the possibilities it could have before we all let the whole genre get in such disrepair.
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