Loudwire Awards Pre-Party
Collaborative creativity can produce brilliant results, but there’s something almost otherworldly about what emerges from the minds of remarkably talented artists, the types who’ve lived many lifetimes in a short period, left to his/her own devices.
As much as Nine Inch Nails, Smashing Pumpkins, The Cure or Foo Fighters (particularly on that first album) are considered “bands,” they brazenly exhibit the precision focused passion of a specific person; often a person bursting at the seams with something to say. BEARTOOTH began and in many ways continues to be such an artist, bubbling forth from the psyche, soul and complex emotions buried in multitalented instrumentalist and songwriter, Caleb Shomo.
Beartooth shares equal inspiration with brutal metalcore as with old-school punk like The Ramones and the bombastic theatricality of Queen. The end result is a back-to-basics hardcore stomp that would get the crowd moving at a Hatebreed or Terror show, interspersed with a steadfast determination to give equal importance to anthemic choruses.
“I made the whole thing by myself,” Shomo says of Beartooth’s debut album, Disgusting. “The entire record, front to back, is literally a reflection of my thoughts and my mental well-being at the time. The album captures every end of the spectrum musically and lyrically. I know this may sound strange, but I didn’t write these songs for anyone. I wrote just to write. All of the songs came about because I love writing Beartooth songs. That’s it. I won’t record a song unless I love it, unless I believe in it. I won’t do it any other way.”
Beartooth began as a way to blow off steam and add another dimension to Shomo’s genre-hopping creative output. He and his hometown friends started jamming; hanging out in his Columbus, OH basement studio and playing music for fun. They released an EP, Sick, and then hit the road, touring North America and Europe with genre titans August Burns Red, Memphis May Fire, The Word Alive and Of Mice & Men, among others. In between support slots the five-piece headlined everything from basements to club shows, building a strong and devoted following. The EP’s accompanying music videos for “Go Be the Voice” and “I Have a Problem” (both live and traditional) quickly accumulated over 1 million views, and set the stage for the band’s next endeavor, Disgusting.
While he’s still a very young guy, Shomo has lived a lifetime in music already. He had already dabbled in a project with Escape The Fate cofounder Max Green and Craig Mabbit (Blessthefall/The World Alive/Escape The Fate) when he was called up to play keyboards for Attack Attack! at the tender age of 15. The band incited polarizing dialogue around the world, as some jaded critics mocked the group’s “crabcore” while a new generation of fans followed the band’s every move. Shomo found himself thrust into the front man role following a series of lineup changes. The band’s self-titled sophomore effort debuted at #1 on Billboard’s independent chart.
Shomo was handling all of the vocals, programming and production duties by the time the third Attack Attack! album, This Means War, broke into the Top 10. The record sold 17,000 copies in its first week, debuting at #8 on the Billboard Top 200.
Battling the same type of depression, anxiety and overindulgence as many of his fans, Shomo bowed out of Attack Attack! to get himself together, and the songs on Disgusting reflect that struggle.
The closing track, “Sick and Disgusting,” is so personal that Shomo has trouble listening to it. It an intense exploration of the mental health issues he’s struggled with, not dissimilar from the raw truth found on Korn’s eponymous debut, or Reznor’s open confessions of drug addiction scattered throughout NIN. It’s a song where Shomo just hit “record” and let it all pour out.
“I almost didn’t put it on the record because I felt embarrassed about people hearing it,” Shomo confesses. “It is really intense for me personally. It’s hard to explain but suffice it to say, it’s a song about a lot of mental health things I’ve dealt with. If people listen to it and understand where I’m coming from and respect it, great. If other people think I sound like an idiot because I start crying in a song, I really don’t care. I know how much I put into that song emotionally. It’s one straight take, all the way through. I realized I’d be shorting myself if I didn’t put it on the record.”
Alternatively, a track like “Beaten in Lips” is written from Caleb’s experiences outside his own world: he wrote it from the perspective of abused kids with nowhere to turn. “I was just thinking about it one day, about how absolutely ridiculous it is that some parents abuse their children,” he explains.
The album’s opening track, “The Lines,” hits a lighter note. “We have been playing that song live before the record comes out. It’s just a fun jam. I wanted to write riffs that people can jump around and get wild to. People can sing at shows and have fun. I want people to sing along so they feel as much a part of the show as we are. I love doing house shows, shows without barricades, floor shows.”
There’s a beautiful authenticity in Beartooth’s music, which is the result of Shomo’s simple intention: to write songs for the sake of writing songs. There is nothing calculated, nothing crafted for mass appeal. It’s simply the truth of his experiences and emotions.
“Red Bull has been backing whatever I want to do musically which has been really refreshing,” Shomo says. “There isn’t any pressure to write certain types of songs or to have a certain sound. I don’t go into my basement thinking, ‘OK, I’ve got to write a pop song’ or ‘I’ve got to write a heavy song.’ The songs are what they are and are allowed to be whatever comes out of me. Beartooth ends up having a lot of dynamics that way, a lot of diversity. I never want to make a record that becomes boring.”
-Ryan J. Downey
A dark, twisted circus sideshow that’s built around bombastically grooving melodic death n’ roll is swinging forward with captivating glee, mesmerizing merriment and the plundering power of lethal pirates toward those brave souls who hand over a ticket to be torn by Avatar and their Black Waltz, the fourth album and first proper American release from the Swedish masters of mayhem.
Within Avatar’s diverse songs, a steady focus on the fluid and organic power of the riff (recalling the thunderous foresight of heavy metal’s original wizards, Black Sabbath) takes flight combined with an adventurous sprit veering off into the astral planes of the psychedelic atmosphere conjured by pioneers like Pink Floyd back in the day.
Avatar has found a footing that combines the best of rock n’ roll, hard rock and heavy metal’s past, present and future into an overall artistic presentation that is thought-provoking, challenging and altogether enchantingly electric. With the grandiose showmanship of American professional wrestling, the snake oil salesmanship of early 20th century vaudevillian troubadours and the kinetically superheroic power of early Kiss, Avatar lays waste to lesser mortals with ease. Whether somebody gets their rocks off listening to Satyricon or System of a Down, they’ll find something suitably deranged here.
“We’re in this weird field, caught in a triangle between extreme metal, rock n’ roll and what can be described as Avant-garde,” confesses Avatar vocalist Johannes Eckerström. The all-enveloping theme park vibe of the band’s music and visual counterpart means that, naturally, “it’s turning into something bigger.”
“I have been in this band for ten years. I grew up in this band,” Eckerström explains. “We’re somewhat veterans on the one hand. But we’re the new kids in the neighborhood in America at the same time.”
Avatar came of age as “little brothers” of sorts of the famed Gothenburg scene that spawned the celebrated New Wave Of Swedish Death Metal. The band’s debut album, 2006’s Thoughts of No Tomorrow, was filled with brutal, technical melodic death metal to be sure but already, “We tried to put our own stamp on it,” the singer assures. While the following year’s Schlacht still contained flourishes of melody, the unrelenting metallic fury reached an extreme peak. “Intensity was very important,” he says, with some degree of understatement.
Where to go for album number three? “We basically rebelled against ourselves,” Eckerström says of 2009’s self-titled collection. “We figured, ‘We can play faster and make even weirder, more technical riffs,’ because Schlacht was cool. But to take that another step would have turned us into something we didn’t want to be.”
Instead Avatar rediscovered their inherent passion for traditional heavy metal and classic rock n’ roll. “We decided to remove some unnecessary ‘look at me, I can play!’ parts and added more groove. We added a whole new kind of melody. It was awesome to be this ‘rock n’ roll band’ for a while. It was refreshing and liberating.”
Black Waltz sees Avatar coming completely full circle, returning to a more aggressive form of heavy metal but incorporating the lessons they learned while jamming on big riffs with album number three. “We finally came to understand what a good groove is all about and what a great fit it was for our sound,” notes Eckerström.
Tracks like the appropriately titled “Ready for the Ride,” the rollicking “Let it Burn” (which dips into some delicious stonerifficness), the anthemic “Smells Like a Freakshow” (a modern day twist of Marilyn Manson and Rob Zombie) and “Torn Apart” are supercharged with a dynamic range of artistic showmanship on a near cinematic scale and it’s all stitched together by a driving bottom end.
While most European metal acts who dare attempt this level of musicianship, showmanship and attention to detail seem content to toil away in the studio and lock themselves away from the crowds, Avatar have excelled beyond their peers thanks in large part to their continued focus on road work. Careening to and fro on tour busses and airplanes around the world like a marauding troupe of circus performers, Eckerström and his mates (guitarists Jonas Jarlsby and Tim Öhrström, bassist Henrik Sandelin and drummer John Alfredsson) have forged the type of musical bond that can only be brought forth from massive amounts of time spent together on the stage, in hotel rooms, in airports and partying at the venue’s bar.
Whether on tour with bands like In Flames, Dark Tranquility or Helloween, playing gigantic festivals like Storsjöyra and Sweden Rock Festival or demolishing South by Southwest, playing live is what it all comes down to for this band. “That is the final manifestation of our art,” Eckerström insists. “Of course an album is a piece of art in itself, but mainly it's a means to reach the higher goal, which is doing these awesome shows. Touring is of the greatest importance.”
“We all just love the pirate’s life,” he admits freely. “Sailing into the city on this tour bus thingy, going to kick some ass, have that party and all the while meeting all of these people, entertaining them, encountering a culture that's not your own. We love that.”
The want for this type of lifestyle goes back to early childhood fascinations for the good-humored singer. Reading about superheroes, watching Hulk Hogan on TV, getting exposed to Kiss – these were the first ingredients for what Eckerström would go on to create with the guys in Avatar and what has culminated now in Black Waltz.
The frontman promises that Avatar will continue to create, to captivate and to experiment. There’s no definitive endpoint in sight. It’s always about the horizon, the journey itself. “As long as you're hungry as an artist, there are higher and higher artistic achievements. I love AC/DC and Motorhead and what they’ve established is amazing, but we don’t want to write albums that are kind of like the album before. We want to travel to a new galaxy, so to speak, every time.”
The goal is always to conquer what came before. “That is what stays with you as a mentally healthy musician. Or maybe a mentally deranged one, I’m not sure,” the singer laughs. And part and parcel to that continued evolution will be the ever broadening expansion of the scope of Avatar’s worldwide presentation: Black Waltz and beyond.
“We have great visions of what we want to do and the things we want to give to people on a stage,” Eckerström promises. “These ideas, these visions, they require a huge audience. They require a lot of legroom to be done, so I want to get into those arenas, basically. I know we would do something really magical if we got the chance. This idea is one of those things that really, really keeps us going.”
Ded is an American “Fresh” Metal band from Phoenix, AZ. Their first single “Anti-Everything” reached the Top 20 @ Active Rock radio, and the video has more than 1.2 million views on Youtube. The band has played every major US Rock Festival in 2017. Their 2nd single “Remember The Enemy” is currently #20 and climbing at Rock Radio.
My Ticket Home
PUKE ROCK OR DIE
A shoegaze/drone project started by Kristina Esfandiari.
Royal Thunder is an American Blues-infused Rock band from Atlanta, GA, formed in 2007.
They released their debut EP in 2009, which was followed by their first full-length album in 2012.
Mlny Parsonz - bass/vocals
Josh Weaver - guitar
Evan Diprima - drums
Will Fiore - guitar