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[7th October 2013]
[Basick Records]

01. Boxer
02. Mirrors
03. Rain
04. The Falling Line
05. Mantis
06. Aconite
07. Centrefold
08. The Human Thing
09. L.A. Layer
10. Postbreaks

Whatever qualities may come to mind when thinking about Belgium, it’s probably a safe bet that ferociousness isn’t going to feature highly on that list. Exploding that notion – and placing a pin in another country on Basick Records’ map of world domination to boot – are Antwerp’s Bear, with their second album Noumenon.

Aside from any minor geographical incongruities, Bear do live up to their name and have delivered a snarling, rampaging beast of an album. The band combine Fear Factory-esque jackhammer riffing and Vision Of Disorder’s hardcore energy with Meshuggah’s guitar tones and pitch bends, and round off the sound with a sense of groove sometimes reminiscent of Korn when they were still young and vital. It is a potent, visceral cocktail of sound.

Album opener “Boxer” sets the tone for much of the thirty five minute run-time, with frantic verses giving way to a mid-paced, chorus packing a hook big enough to catch a killer whale. The formula comes together with devastating effect on lead single “Rain”, with its jerking, stop-start riffery. “Aconite” also sees the introduction of some almost psychedelic, Alice In Chains-esque atmospherics to the mix.

The word “Noumenon” was used by philosopher Immanuel Kant, in his book The Critique of Pure Reason as a name for a metaphysical phenomenon which cannot be directly experienced. Or something like that. I tried to understand the concept more fully, and the attempt gave me a nosebleed. But, nevertheless, it is an indicator that there’s somewhat more to Bear than just unthinking bludgeoning. The gatefold CD packaging artwork heavily features stylised cross-sections of brains, and vocalist Maarten’s lyrics have an introspective, philosophical flavour throughout.

This cerebral approach extends out into the instrumentation. The grooves are immediate without being obvious, and stuffed with deft little touches – a snatched note here, a dash of fretboard wizardry there and some truly gut-wrenching pace changes – all of which add up to make Noumenon an engaging listen throughout.

Noumenon firmly establishes Bear as a force to be reckoned with. It showcases a clearly talented band, and one that has probably still got a surprise or two up their collective sleeves for the future. It is a lean, focused album with no filler and plenty of twists and turns. It’s also pretty refreshing to hear that the band haven’t succumbed to the common temptation of sticking in a couple of superfluous short ‘interlude’ tracks to pad it out. Noumenon is simply ten shitkicking tunes, with no messing about.

The bottom line is equally straightforward. Bear introduce enough interesting elements of their own to stand apart from the pack in the increasingly crowded djentsphere. Noumenon is a thrilling, white-knuckle ride of an album with brain and brawn in equal measure. With European touring a distinct possibility for the near future, now is an excellent opportunity to get acquainted with these tracks before Bear come to savage a venue near you.


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