During all my years attending concerts in Belgium I’d always seen the name BEAR pop up on posters, yet never really had the opportunity to check them out. I didn’t immediately dig into their discography either so I never knew exactly what to expect. They seemed to be one of those bands that would elude me forever. Until I managed to see their performance at Fleddypalooza 2019 in Brussels. These Antwerp gents put up such an intense show that I was instantly hooked. Boy had I missed out on something great all this time. But I can now make up for past mistakes, as these countrymen of mine have just recently released their fourth full-length for me to review. ‘Propaganda‘ hit the shelves last Friday at Pelagic Records, which means they’re right on schedule for today’s Benelux Music Appreciation Day.
A few songs into ‘Propaganda‘ I quickly started to get a strange yet pleasant feeling. I’m not going to go for nostalgia, because listening to this record didn’t evoke a feeling of regret or want. Rather it reawakened something inside me. Some kind of fire that lay dormant for a few years to make place for growth in other areas. A fire which burnt brightest when bands like Devildriver or Fear Factory were still forces to be reckoned with.
It’s all in the grooves! BEAR‘s latest effort is an unbelievably groovy record. You won’t have to wait long to realise it. Take the breakdown in the middle of the first track ‘Dissolve Dissipate‘, for example. It’s one of the album’s most headbangable moments. Or the refrain on their single ‘Gutter Love‘, if you will. Talk about a rush! Even slower tracks like ‘Apollo’s Heist‘ or ‘Mite‘ pack quite the proverbial punch thanks to groovy riffs. These make the songs flow with astonishing ease. Why astonishing? Because you’ll be done with the record before you know it, and you’ll be wondering where the rest of it has gone. I’m sorry to say I’ll only be able to redirect you to BEAR‘s previous material.
Save grooves, which make out the album’s main body, ‘Propaganda‘ is strewn with interesting rhythms. The layout here often consists of broken patterns. Isolate the snare drum on ‘Obey‘ or ‘Red Throne‘ if you don’t immediately catch my drift. Mathcore fans will get it. BEAR do keep it contained enough for them to avoid direct comparison with the intimidating insanity of bands like The Dillinger Escape Plan. Still, the soft chaos they’ve created is interesting enough for me to put them up there next to Converge or even the old school Norma Jean.
One element I find particularly pleasing is Maarten Albrechts‘ singing. His furious roars seem to hail straight out of the late 2000s. At times I’m even reminded of Chimaira‘s Mark Hunter. When he pairs it up with his echoing clean singing, I would even dare go as far as to say the music takes a few nu-metalesque twists and turns. ‘Propaganda‘ is a true delight that way, and I’m thrilled that this kind of music still exists. It sounds like something from a bygone age that’s actually closer than you remember. Yes, BEAR‘s strength lies in the fact they’ve managed to outlive their fallen fathers. I’m sure they would have enjoyed immense popularity had they emerged a few years sooner, but I’m glad to have them around today.
Favourite tracks: ‘Apollo’s Heist‘, ‘Gutter Love‘, ‘Flares‘
Release date: May 8th, 2020
Label: Pelagic Records
- Dissolve Dissipate
- Apollo’s Heist
- Red Throne
- Gutter Love
- The Ram