Having discovered Bear through their senses ravening second album back in 2013, every new moment with the Belgian outfit has been a momentous moment in our musical year and there is nothing different in 2020 with the unleashing of Propaganda, their most striking trespass of the senses yet.
There has always been an open uniqueness about the Antwerp quartet’s sound but again it has evolved into a whole new beast of fascination within their fourth full length. Described as a fusion of progressive metal and hardcore, the reality is that it is a far richer and diversely woven proposition. Within Propaganda groove and tech metal embroils in death and noise rock, a mixture only further twisted as rapacious imagination cast its weaves. The feral likes of Noumenon and successor /// have blossomed in that creative environment but Propaganda though has simply found a whole new discharge of temptation.
With its heart and breath a roar against the spins which manipulates all our lives, Bear’s new onslaught immediately descended on ears with opener Dissolve Dissipate. Rhythms immediately assault as acerbic grooves entwine the listener, a hungry contagiousness swarming the senses as the track violently devours. The thick growl of vocalist Maarten Albrechts erupts straight into the barrage, spilling further malice and tempting in a fusion only increasing in enslavement; even more so as a contrast of clean vocals rises within the sonic persistence and growing enterprise. As the track again twists and escalates its lure, all the time soon adding greater lust to our appreciation, it is a superb start to the album and a scene setter of the invention within its body and ravenous dexterity in its realisation.
The rhythms of drummer Serch Carriere and bassist Dries Verhaert perpetually make for a magnetic invitation even as more restraint wraps their baiting of ears as the release’s title track follows. Nevertheless it instantly held attention tight as further aspects add the inescapable beckoning into a waiting deluge of sound and venom. Even that though is aligned to melodic and compelling enterprise, the track a mercurial incitement as savage as it is seductive on body and thoughts. Winding, Guitarist James Falck again weaves vines of sound and threads of grooves around the song’s transfixing length, tendrils which threaten as they lure; the track itself epitomising that feat within its predacious presence.
Obey barely allows a breath to be taken before uncaging its own predatory instincts and sounds, ferocity again interlaced with progressive and grooved imagination which not so much tempers the assail as encourages it and an already well grown addictiveness to the encounter. It is a trait we found with previous releases, a quickly formed and unshakeable hunger for their wares which is soon fertile within Propaganda and only intensified with the following pair of Apollo’s Heist and Red Throne. The first teases ears first, nagging on attention before rewarding such focus with a menacing crawl which was soon burrowing deep; the sinister temptation only accentuated by the harmonics of varied vocals and synth caresses within the ursine confrontation. It provided full enthralment from start to finish which its successor quickly devoured with its far more volatile and grievous exploits. As those before and to come, the track is as unpredictable as it is compelling, leaping with bruising dynamics yet never hinting on its subsequent moments of greedy aggression or dramatic restraints; it all delivered with devious craft and manipulative imagination.
Through the similarly ominous and disturbing intimation of the increasingly carnal Mite and the viscous animosity of Gutter Love the album only gripped tighter, the latter a virulent slab of primeval rock ‘n’ roll while the following Stigmata left its deep sonic mark with rhythmic lashings and dark raptorial fingering of the psyche and fair to say that each track is bound in capricious adventure and skilfully erratic enterprise inventively and imaginatively bred.
The calm dark beauty of The Ram brings a moment to find stability for the senses and suggestion for thoughts though the listener is soon consumed in the cataclysmic invasion of Flares which erupts with Bear’s trademark brutality and imagination gripping resourcefulness as again expectations are never allowed to seed and appetite to lose its greed for the band’s ingenuity.
Engine and Kuma bring the album to a close, the first an infection of sound and intimidation which is as masterfully radiant at times as it is persistently intrusive and truculent throughout and the second an infestation of quarrel and hostility around a groove woven web of harmonic and melodic splendour; both providing a rousing end to the album with the last another particular peak in its lofty landscape.
Propaganda only becomes more potent and magnificent by the listen and imposingly stimulating as its lyrical side stands tall in the instantaneous glory of its sounds. Not for the first time Bear has crafted one of the year’s major and richly enjoyable moments; the continuing welcome ringing in our senses proof.
Propaganda is out now via Pelagic Records.
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