In March 2020, Beartooth founder Caleb Shomo had almost all the music written for the Ohio metalcore band’s fourth album. But he hadn’t begun writing lyrics when the pandemic triggered lockdowns around the globe. As a result, Below took on a very different lyrical tone than it otherwise might have. “This album really is like a timestamp of lockdown in a way,” he tells Apple Music. “It’s about all the stuff that gets buried inside you that you don’t really deal with, but that comes boiling back up due to all the isolation. It’s about slowly losing your mind over time.” To mirror this mindset, Shomo sequenced the songs to gradually get darker as the album progresses. “I tried to reflect my mental state during lockdown,” he says. “As it went on longer and longer, I was breaking down more and more.” Below, he discusses some key tracks from Below.
“Devastation” “I was in a hotel room on a day off on the Motionless in White co-headlining tour, and my buddy gave me this distortion pedal. I had this little recording setup, and I just remember making this guitar sound, and then the next thing I know, the music for the song is written. It really captured everything I was going for—the energy and the speed, but also the big riffs and the breakdown-y stuff. But the lyrics are just incredibly defeating. I wrote them knowing this song was written for the live show, but we had no idea when that was ever going to happen again. So, it’s just me coping with that.”
“The Past Is Dead” “This was the first complete song I wrote for the album, in November 2019, so it’s been around for a while. It was kind of the discovery of what I wanted to do sonically with the album. I found all the guitar tones, and musically it felt really well-built. It was the catalyst for the rest of the songs. In the video, we have Barry, who is our new mascot dude. He represents all the things that are buried below, all the stuff that came out of lockdown and this whole insane year. He’s very heavily influenced by Iron Maiden’s mascot, Eddie.”
“Fed Up” “I had a really fun time making that song. I’m a really big Foo Fighters fan, and I like that ’90s, garage-y, just driving-the-whole-time kind of sound. It’s got pretty much one drumbeat throughout the majority of the song. I just wanted it to sound kind of dirty, grungy, too loud, and over the top. Like the majority of the songs, the lyrics came out of one of those days in the middle of lockdown where it’s like, ‘I’m so sick of this, and all I want to do is rock again.’”
“Hell of It” “This was another very live-centered one. I wrote that on that Motionless in White tour as well—at least all the music. I was probably listening to Motörhead and wanted something with that kind of groove. I just wanted the guitars to kind of growl, so I wrote really simple riffs in the breakdowns and stuff. It’s got a super-basic drumbeat behind it and it’s just a good time, plain and simple.”
“The Last Riff” “This is my favorite song on the record, and probably my favorite closing track we’ve ever done. It’s the first time Beartooth’s ever done a fully instrumental song. With all the previous records, the final song takes a big shift. It’s usually some sort of super-deep, personal, emotional song that’s all focused on the vocals. But I just wasn’t in the mood for that. I felt so beat down that I didn’t have anything left in the tank, lyrically. So, I just wrote a really long, slow instrumental. And in a weird way, it is an incredibly emotional song. To be able to do that without any lyrics was really cool.”