Beartooth, the Academy, Manchester (28th February 2020)

In a world where rock music seems to be on the back-foot, it’s always encouraging to see that a gig has sold out. What’s even better is when the artist in question plays music at the heavier end of rock’s audio scale, and has limited ‘mainstream’ appeal.

This is precisely the position Beartooth find themselves in this evening, having sold out the 2300 capacity Academy in Manchester. Whatever the state of contemporary rock music may or not be, this band’s star is certainly shining brightly.

Before the headliners hit the stage, however, there is the small matter of the support acts. On first are Higher Power, a hardcore five-piece hailing from Leeds, who’s sludgy nu-metal-tinged brand of hardcore is something of a throwback. However, the band is extremely tight musically, for a band with this spot on the bill. The band own the stage like they’ve been doing this for years. Their back-to-basics, two guitars, drum and bass brand of hard-rock goes a long way to winning over this crowd, and they have certainly made a few new friends this evening. While the set isn’t perfect- the clean vocals often drowned out by heavily distorted guitars and bass-.the shouted vocals are as unique as they are excellent.

Next up are Aussie metalcore-mob, the Amity Affliction. In contrast to the show’s openers, the Amity Affliction are seasoned veterans, who have honed their craft over the better part of two decades. The band have a strong, cult-like connection with their fans, and it seems like there a lot of those in attendance tonight. As is the way with the Amity Affliction, there is a lot of programming to garnish their brand of melodic metalcore, in contrast to the DIY, brass tacks of the opener. However, as the band are veteran performers at this stage, their set is as polished as it is brutal. This couldn’t have been performed better, and their fans devotion has been rewarded, and almost certainly intensified. New album ‘Everyone Loves You… Once You Leave Them’ can be expected to shift a few more units after tonight’s performance.

The headliners are something of an eclectic act. Frontman Caleb Shomo dresses like he’s the lead singer of an 80’s hair metal band; complete with floral shirt and bandana tied around his head. He bounds around the stage with the enthusiasm and energy of the cheeriest pop-punk frontmen; and the band’s first two albums were recorded in the most punk-rock of fashion-Shomo literally playing every instrument for himself, and self-producing the albums.

It is probably this mix of styles that has ensured the level of appeal that Beartooth enjoys. By the time the band hit the very orange stage-literally orange banners, and stacks of Orange Amplification equipment everywhere- the crowd’s anticipation is palpable, and the confetti cannons which greet the band seem wholly appropriate. The band promptly get things underway with the pounding metalcore of ‘The Lines’.

What follows is an hour-and-a-half of heavy, fun, no-frills metalcore. The setlist is heavy on tracks from 2018’s Disease, which is the band’s most recent record, and features some of their strongest material to date. Tracks such as ‘Enemy’ and ‘Bad Listener’ generate singalongs that threaten to drown out the performers; quite the achievement at a metalcore show. 

Similarly, old favourites from debut album ‘Disgusting’ get an airing, and elicit just as strong a reaction. ‘Beaten in Lips’ and ‘I Have a Problem’ in particular go down extremely well with the crowd.

As is the theme of ‘Disease’, Shomo has contemplated mental health over the last few years. It’s obvious that he realises the importance of this to his fans, and has been known to make the case for talking about mental health before breaking into the title track. There is little in the way of a speech tonight, however, words are unnecessary-it’s clear that the crowd by into this song and its message, as they belt back every ‘Is it taking over? Will it bury me? Or will clarity become the cure for my disease?’. No-one has all the answers, but it’s clear that Shomo is working in the right direction, and gives a welcome and vital outlet to his fans.

As energetic and enjoyable as this set is, there are few instances where the bass is far too loud, and completely drowns out the texture of the rhythm guitar, and the (admittedly limited) flair and solos from the lead guitar. However, this does means that each and every breakdown hits like a punch to the gut, and induces venue-wide moshing and circle pits. 

In addition to this, there is very little variety in the songs selected for the set; in that everything is hard, fast and loud. This is to be expected from a metalcore show, but deep-cuts such as ‘Believe’, ‘Clever’ and ‘King of Anything’ would better demonstrate the band’s range and ability.

These are minor gripes in the grand scheme of things, however, and by the time the last notes of ‘In Between’ ring out, everyone is left voiceless; with varying levels of tinnitus, and all with beaming smiles. On ‘Rock is Dead’, Shomo claimed “if rock’n’roll’s dead, you can kill me right now!” Based on tonight’s evidence, this definitely won’t be necessary.