Gig Review and Photography by Steve Kilmister

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Last time that Beartooth visited Birmingham (and the first time they visited the UK) was as the opening band for Of Mice & Men, back in April. Just five months later they’re back and headlining their own show at the Birmingham Academy 3, bringing along their own support in the form of Dead Harts and Climates.

Arriving at the venue, the queue for the doors was already significant, and promoters working on behalf of the bands were busy handing out flyers. The standout quote from these was from Kerrang! billing Beartooth as “The world’s best new band”, this seemed to generate quite some conversation from those waiting and despite trying, no one was able to offer a band they considered fitting of that honour better than Beartooth. If the expectations for the evening weren’t high already, there were now.

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As a warm up for the release of their debut album Body Clocks and their own headline tour in October, Climates headed out onto the stage in front of an almost full room. Their blend of (very) melodic hardcore might not set them apart from many of their peers, but their precise and energetic delivery certainly provided a solid start to the evening. Despite requests from vocalist Wes Thompson for the crowd to form a pit, the most they obliged with was some enthusiastic head nodding and the throwing of the occasional devil horns. The lads from Lincoln’s genuine appreciation for so many people coming out early for their set was reciprocated as they finished up their set.

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Having enjoyed the release of Dead Hart’s record Cult For The Haggard Youth this summer, I thought I knew what I was in for seeing them live, I was wrong. However, it seems that I was on my own as within seconds of them taking the stage the room exploded. Their unrelenting, gritty yet grooving sound, overlaid with the violent vocal talents of Matthew ‘Bax’ Baxendale pummelled the crowd, the security staff pulling Bax aside to remind him not to encourage circle pits only seemed to add fuel to the fire. Striptease was the stand out track for the evening and also a personal favourite from the album.  I’m not sure exactly what it is they’re putting in the water in Sheffield, but if the rest of the nations water suppliers could take note, we’d all certainly appreciate it.

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Immediately prior to the arrival of Beartooth the anticipation in the room was palpable, this was broken by a huge surge forward to welcome them onto the stage. Frontman Caleb Shomo immediately expressed his hatred of a barrier being in place and urged everyone to pretend that it wasn’t there. He was taken at his word as the band launched into The Lines, those of the crowd not in the pit sang back every word with fists and devil horns raised.

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Musically, everything was on point, and their innovative breakdowns achieved the desired effect. The level of transparency and honesty in the lyrical content of their album Disgusting demands delivery that goes beyond passion, and tonight it seemed that Caleb wanted to share the continued exorcism of a few demons with everyone present. Caleb’s introduction to their encore seemed to sum up the catharsis that their music exudes “You’ll never feel more alive than you do at a rock ‘n’ roll show… when you’re letting your emotions out and setting yourself free… I want you to leave this room feeling better, set free from your pain… give it everything you’ve got.”

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There are bands that seem able to attract huge amounts of press acclaim and when you see them live you never really understand why, and maybe the first time I saw Beartooth they fell slightly into that category for me, tonight that couldn’t have been further from the truth. In the five months since they were last in Birmingham, they’ve accomplished a level of polish that’s hard to believe. I’m not sure whether it just takes a band a little longer to gel when not everyone is involved in the creative process (everything for their record being written, tracked and produced by Caleb) or it’s having the entirety of this year’s Warped tour to hone their craft, but either way their performance tonight was on another level. It’s not hard to imagine, that should their current trajectory continue, they’ll be playing significantly larger rooms and headlining festival stages before very long at all.

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Beartooth set list:

The Lines / Ignorance Is Bliss / Dead / In Between / Set Me On Fire / I Have A Problem / Relapsing / Beaten In Lips / Pick Your Poison / Body Bag

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