The Great Bear the new album from US thrashers Silencer offers as much intrigue as it does compulsive enterprising sounds. The release is a concept album based on an interesting historical what if question, the album an investigation of an alternative history. More importantly though musically The Great Bear unleashes songs with energy and craft which is hard not to be seduced by. More melodic and restrained than most other thrash releases this year and previous releases from the band, the album hones its sounds to stroll in league with the story. It is not musically groundbreaking, its seeds in influences from a couple of decades ago or so, but it captures the imagination thoroughly and inspires nothing less than full satisfaction.
Distributed via the Vanity Music Group, The Great Bear considers the question and premise of what would have happened if the Soviet Union had gone further in the space race than America’s step upon the moon. It is told through a Russian perspective, imagining the outcome of a union which could mobilize their entire population to achieve a goal. The tale is quite riveting at times and though to be honest the music has to be the important thing overall on a release, and the band have that in vibrant place here, it is impossible not to be wrapped up in the emerging outcome.
The album is a more tempered form of thrash from the Denver, Colorado quartet, though it still has a heavy and persistent snarl to its presence. Since forming in 1998, Silencer has earned a powerful following and strong acclaim across its years though arguably the wider recognition has eluded them up till now, something the new album could and should remedy. With a more rock cored sound to its thrash heart, the album maybe will not feature frequently at the heady heights of end of year acclaim lists but it will be a more consistent contender than most other releases.
The album sets a prologue with the national declaration like sound of opener introduction Sacred War, the song a lift of pride, endeavour, and the passion to exceed the emerging southern twang across the globe. Its brief and eventually dissipating breath explodes into the thunderous I Am Thunder!, a storm of a song which abuses the air with muscular riffs before igniting it with excellent guitar sonics and invention from Dan Lynn and Keith Spargo whose vocals are exceptional even if carrying a Hetfield tone. The song does have a firm Metallica feel, not a bad thing, probably a little expected, but still a notable aspect to the impressive song. Fully anthemic as fits the story the track fires up the senses magnificently for what is ahead.
The small atmospheric vocal lead in of 1969 sets up the track Great Bear nicely, the latter an enveloping mass of consuming and evocative intensity spiked by excellent expressive vocals, group shouts, and a rampaging yet slowly twisting groove to lap up eagerly. As mentioned it is hard to say there is anything new going on as such but impossible to declare it is not totally irresistible either.
The outstanding and best song on the album Insignia, with its cosmically sonic teasing and ravenous bass prowl from Patrick Russell, triggers further fires of pleasure whilst the two part Star City is a bustling and electrified expanse of adventure and determination brought with coarse abrasive energy and fiery melodic imagination which burns the atmosphere of the song perfectly.
Further highlights include The Roar, a blistering onslaught of tempestuous energy, rampant riffing, and scorched melodic invention driven by the excellent charge of rhythms from drummer Alex Simpson. An instrumental thrust of adrenaline to fuel any mission or intense attempt, the song eventually simmers as its final crescendo dissipates into the equally thrilling Light, a classic metal/thrash ball of heat to again bring an anthemic passion to the fore.
Closing on the again nationalistic The First, The Last, a climax of pride and finality, the album is quite excellent, and the more one joins its journey the more rewarding it becomes. The Great Bear is a release it is hard to find any fault with, and though as mentioned it does not try or succeed in venturing to new world musically it is one of the most entertaining and pleasing releases to blast off this year.
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