7th April 2017 – Basick Records
05. Knives Are Easy
06. The Oath
Is there a more appropriately named band than Bear? Angry, ferocious and predatory. Surprisingly agile, dexterous and…er…furry? Fond of honey or marmalade sandwiches? Forever stealing picnic baskets? Hmmm. Maybe the comparison only goes so far, but you get the idea.
Roughly three and a half years after second album Noumenon, the Belgian riff guerrillas have returned with their third album, ///. When even the album title has been styled to resemble the gouges left by a swiped claw, it would be reasonable to assume that this is going to be a savage one.
You’ll need to pre-brace yourself before pressing the play button, because opener “Blackpool” goes straight to ‘feral’ from a standing start, dispensing with everything up to and including an introduction, launching directly into a high-octane, jagged and overwhelmingly groovy verse with nothing more than an audible intake of breath. These guys are definitely not messing about.
“Blackpool” – as well as lead single “Masks” -serve as effective microcosms of /// as a whole. They take The Dillinger Escape Plan levels of energy, mixed with Slipknot-esque aggression and a nu-metally bounce reminiscent of early Korn or Mudvayne, presented in thoroughly modern tones. As with Noumenon, there are cracking little deft touches, like the off-kilter triplets in the main riff of “Masks” that slightly wrong-foot the listener on first play, but are welcomed like old friends on the second.
The pace rarely drops below frenetic, and when it does – like on “7” and “Klank” – it falls into a gut churning grind rather than a lighters-in-the air power ballad. Melodic moments sprinkled elsewhere also serve as the briefest of respites from the pummelling. Don’t expect a Bear Unplugged set any time soon.
But we do know that Bear’s natural habitat is onstage. Whilst listening to /// in the office is enough to induce a spirited desk-mosh, these tracks are effectively a pile of paraffin-soaked kindling, waiting to be ignited by the full force of a Bear live show. With these new tracks in their arsenal, full of thick, meaty riffing, coupled with physically imposing vocalist Maarten’s equally imposing vocals, and topped with their already formidable reputation for chaos, their next tour really should be considered a must-see.
The band now have the stamina to maintain the intensity, through stompers like “Construct.Constrict“, right to the end of the album where they wrong-foot us all by having the very last lines sung by what appears to be a children’s choir. A final surprise attack of delicacy after all the fury. Well played.
With ///, Bear have matured, but not mellowed. Their fire burns at least as bright, and the high points of Noumenon are the default standard of quality here. Get to know these songs now, so you’ll at least be partially prepared when they come to demolish a venue near you. As I said; Savage. Gloriously savage.