LIVE REVIEW: Beartooth @ The Ritz, Manchester – 12th December 2016

Beartooth’s latest album Aggressive may have suffered from a case of Difficult Second Album Syndrome, but as ever, it remains difficult to fault its creators’ work ethic. Not only has the Ohio mob’s elevation to the rank of metalcore elite breathed some much-needed fresh air into the genre, but their effort is actually paying dividends. This current UK headline run is their biggest yet, and with their tremendous live prowess now being common knowledge, there’s no way this can be anything but a home run, right?

 Well, not right away, thanks to Trash Boat [5]. It’s weird seeing them on a tour like this, especially as replacements for Fit For A King who dropped out not long after the tour’s announcement (but then again, it could be seen as just swapping one derivative for another, hardcore for pop-punk). But Trash Boat do deserve credit; they know they’re in front of a hardcore audience so harden their sound up accordingly, and they manage to battle their way through the muggy sound system. But their Story So Far facsimiles can only go so far, and the fact that there’s very little of worth to glean here limits them even more.

 Fortunately Vanna [7] are around to smoothen things out. Sure, the Every Time I Die-lite comparisons are easy to make, but it’s hardly a slight on the band, especially with the near constant voracity that comes with songs like Circle The Flame and Paranoia Euphoria, the only thing resembling a breather being the well-timed mid-set stunner Flower. That’s not even mentioning frontman Davey Muise, who clearly has some sort of disdain for his own vocal cords, given the acidic, larynx-crippling screeches that are almost constantly unleashed. Their bag of tricks does begin to run a bit empty towards the end (though the layered closer Digging goes some way towards redemption), but the fact that Vanna have been so overlooked for this long and still hit the stage like it’s theirs for the taking is commendable in anyone’s books.

 But even Vanna on their best days would struggle to take Beartooth [9] on in the live arena, and even on this current cycle for a slightly middling album, they absolutely crush it. Nitpicks out the way first – the set could do with a tiny bit of rejigging (King Of Anything and not Loser? Really?), but with what Beartooth have, they make it work in spectacular fashion. Caleb Shomo’s demands for circle pits, crowdsurfing and singalongs are met with no hesitation, though that’s hardly a surprise, given the amount of grade A mosh fodder like I Have A Problem or giant hooks like the stupidly massive In Between they have under their belts. Even the newer material comes into its own live – Burnout is a surprisingly potent opener, while Hated and Aggressive are just two more to add to Beartooth’s list of certified live anthems. But the set centrepiece, the song that pushes this current incarnation of Beartooth into virtually untouchable territory, is Rock Is Dead, a song that we’re inclined to call the perfect rock song that sees a level of a visceral, fiery passion from both band and crowd that stands unparalleled with the majority of other artists. It’s clear why Beartooth are frequently put amongst the best of modern rock bands – a live presence that hits like a steamroller, raw believability that lays waste to the majority of mainstream metal bands, and a sound that remains profoundly infectious without ever skimping on some real bite. At the minute Beartooth are at the top of their game in the live environment, and to be honest, that doesn’t look like it’ll be changing any time soon.

Words by Luke Nuttall 

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