It’s second album crunch time for Beartooth, and after the heaps of positive accolades bestowed on their debut, Disgusting, they’ve certainly got their work cut out. And right from the off they’re making it clear that the shit-kicking anger they summoned on the first record is back, and hasn’t been watered down.
‘The nervous tics, the twitch in my neck/I’ll never repress it,’ snarls Caleb Shomo on the opening title track, a menacing, distorted chug underpinning his words. The band’s hardcore tendencies come to the surface as soon as Caleb launches into a full-throated roar over a tightly syncopated verse, and it’s a device that appears a few times on the album as satisfyingly offbeat drum hits give the largely melodic choruses a singalong, pop-punk feel. Hated is a good example of this: the verse has the speed and urgency of very early AFI or even The Offspring, and yet the chorus is an unashamedly catchy slice of radio-ready exaltation, as Caleb uses the song to celebrate being free from the clutches of someone who tried to crush his spirit.
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Caleb has been open in numerous interviews about his desire to write honest songs that come from the heart, and if the subject matter and simple, call-a-spade-a-spade lyrics on Aggressive are anything to go by, that’s exactly what he’s doing. ‘I’ve always been a fan of the nightlife/It’s the only life I had/expressing my mind with paper and a pen,’ he sings on Loser, painting a picture of a disgruntled nerd sat in his bedroom in the small hours, scribbling his frustrations into a well-thumbed notebook. It’s something most of us can relate to, and the lack of verbosity in Caleb’s lyrics is refreshing; there’s no pretension or tortured nice-guy tropes at play, just a guy who likes making music and also happens to be a bit pissed off.
All the stops are pulled out on Fair Weather Friend, which might be the album’s standout track. Dark and groovy guitar lines carry the song as Caleb again delves into his personal frustrations to blast someone who let him down when he needed them. If In Between was Disgusting’s fist-pumping anthem moment, Fair Weather Friend recreates that atmosphere on Aggressive.
From there on out, the relentless earworms continue, each with a chorus that’ll make fans of a good melody want to scream into their hairbrush while booting the nearest object across the room. If it was the unpolished, hardcore-tinged chaos of Disgusting that first grabbed your attention, you’ll be more drawn to tracks like the breakneck punk explosion that is Rock Is Dead. The heaps of accessible melodic moments on Aggressive could be down to the fact that being angry is tiring Caleb out. ‘It’s really getting old writing negative songs/Beating yourself up to get another word out,’ he sings on Burnout. If the frenzied and honest angst of Aggressive is anything to go by, though, he isn’t going to be writing his acoustic happy album just yet, because he’s in his element.