Beartooth’s sophomore album, Aggressive, is aptly named and thematically follows suit. It steps away from the internal reflection of their previous work and moves toward a sharp social awareness, a reflection of the unbalanced world in which they find themselves today.
It seems fair to assume that vocalist Caleb Shomo came to blows with many of his demons on the full-length debut Disgusting, which largely read as an autobiographical journey through addiction and pain — and an almost undying desire to survive it. Shomo’s reverence toward self-improvement was not lost on Aggressive; the album digs into the hurt no one really wants to expose or sometimes even have a conversation about. Exercising a unique changeup of metalcore and pop-punk, Shomo and his comrades Kamron Bradbury, Oshie Bichar and Taylor Lumley attack affliction and it’s clear their intent is to target it head on.
Several tracks on this album directly address the gangrenous rot that grows in the presence of toxic relationships, with tracks like “Always Dead,” “Burnout” and the title track “Aggressive” unapologetically claim freedom from the hell such relationships once wrought.
Beartooth may well have created the next anthem for today’s outcast as Shomo relates to the life of the try-hard that never quite made the team in “Loser.” More pop-punk than metal, it’s likely the hook, line and sinker for new fans that haven’t yet cut their teeth on the metal scene.
The album also covers ground on cutting ties (“Hated” and “Fairweather Friend”) and shedding unfair expectations (“King of Anything” and “Censored”). It touches on the very personal topics that make this band such an important influence to their listeners and in the genre, as Shomo owns his limitations and reclaims his life in “Find a Way” and “Sick of Me.”
Although the casual listener will find tracks like “Rock is Dead” easy to get down to, perhaps the long-time fans of metal, rock and punk will find the greatest appreciation in Aggressive. There is a subtle change of hands between genres not only across the album but sometimes within the songs themselves.
This is album will surely affect all listeners on a human level. Following close to the storyline of Shomo’s own life, Aggressive speaks the words for all those who share his experiences on a cosmic, cultural and personal scale. It begs the question: Now that Beartooth has shed their skin in the Sick, Disgusting and Aggressive parts of their existence as a band, what’s next?