People just love to proclaim how “rock is dead”, and how there are “no good rock bands these days”. If you were looking on purely a mainstream level, that’s a somewhat understandable view given how the biggest pushes are put behind Twenty One Pilots and Against The Current, but look even slightly below ground and there’s so much to be found, particularly in metal. Just look at Bear, the Belgian metallers who have been compared to acts like Meshuggah and Converge, and for good reason too. But even though their 2013 album Noumenon saw them hit the European festival circuit at full force, follow-up /// that should ultimately see the ripples beginning to form.
That’s all down to the slight shift in Bear’s sound. The tech-metal framework is still there, but incorporating a much more straightforward metallic influence, most prominently that of Slipknot. Give the Iowa nine-piece the razor-sharp, sleek production of The Dillinger Escape Plan and /// would most likely be the result. And the thing is, it really works, the sort of tight yet ridiculously aggro metal that’s absolutely ideal for 2017. The shards of shrapnel that erupt from Blackpool; the beefy, modern metal slams of Masks and The Oath; the malicious, industrial grind of 7 and the appropriately-titled Klank; the cold, harsh exterior around /// certainly isn’t a welcoming inclusion, but Bear’s most destructive tendencies are brought to the fore because of it. Leander Tsjakalov’s guitar tone sounds fantastic when it hits its low-end rumble on tracks like Raw, and Maarten Albrechts is exactly the sort of feral vocalist needed to do this sound justice, mostly sticking to a vein-bursting snarl (apart from some really quite terrible attempts at a falsetto on Construct.Constrict), and some very slight manipulation that brings out some striking Fear Factory comparisons.
Granted, what Bear do here isn’t infallible. For the number of influences thrown into their melting pot they seem fairly reticent to mix up how they’re used, meaning they can sometimes feel like they’re repeating themselves particularly towards the end, and the children’s choir that materialises out of nowhere on closer Adjust.Adapt is a baffling way to close the album that just can’t pay off. Other than that, there isn’t a whole lot to say about ///; it might be veering away from the rest of the tech-metal crowd into something defined by the immediacy of metal’s bigger names, but there’s little doubt about where Bear’s place on the genre map is. That said, there’s a lot about /// for metal fans of any stripe to like – it’s merciless, compelling and has just the right amount of bounce to keep it as enjoyable as it is. Chances are this won’t be the catalyst for Bear’s sudden explosion as the mainstream’s newest darlings, but appeal isn’t something that this album is lacking.
For fans of: Slipknot, Meshuggah, The Dillinger Escape Plan
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘///’ by Bear is released on 7th April on Basick Records.