I’ll be honest: It’s late in the year, and we start our best of 2016 stuff next week. Finding things to fill out this final week never is an easy task. Usually there’s a lot of barrel scraping involved. Weirdly, that’s not the case this year. These final few days of 2016 reviews contain some really intriguing stuff, starting with today’s record that might twist up your brain.
We visited with Virginia-based maulers Bearstorm last year for their “Americanus” release (a re-recording of the 2013 record of the same name), and even then we knew this would be a band we’d need to follow into the future. Now with their burly new EP “Biophobia,” they have proved that assertion true. These guys play with a lot of sounds fairly common in the metal terrain—black metal, death, doom, prog—but it in a unique way. Their approach is both brutal and fun, meaning you can lose some blood listening to their stuff, but you’ll be enjoying yourself too much to worry about it. These five songs (technically four full tracks and an intro piece) establish how creative this band is, and the music is such that every time you visit, something new reveals itself.
Bearstorm got started as a band in 2009, immediately mixing their weirdness and heaviness right off the bat. Their debut record “Horribilus” reached the world two years later, and then in 2013, they issued their first stab at “Americanus.” Two years later, after piquing the interest of Grimoire Records, the band did the aforementioned re-do of that album, and that version started turning more heads. The band—vocalist Michael Edwards, guitarists Kelsey Miller and Greg Bates, bassist/keyboardist Jay Lindsey, drummer Patrick DeRoche—now have offered this new EP to give everyone a taste of where they are right now and likely whet our appetites for their new full-length.
“Dawn Chorus” is a quick intro cut that has birds chirping and a strange buzzing noise that makes it feel like you’re locked in a bizarre dream. Then it’s into the title track, where an infusion of melody strikes right away and locks horns with heavy guitars chugging. Edwards’ raspy growls begin to land shots, and then it’s into doom land, with a thick bassline driving hard and stoner-style leads burning brightly. “Get down on your knees!” Edwards commands, while the song goes into a foggy haze and then a death spiral. “Cravers of a Second Birth” has a clean start before heading into prog star fields, then erupting. The track sprawls through tricky playing, creaky vocals, and a thrashy assault before it shifts yet again. From there, the playing is tough and dizzying, the growls gurgle, and the finish smolders. “Agaric Catechism” is an instrumental that starts with clean playing before Southern rock-style fumes rise and give the song a kick in the ass. From there, the playing gushes and chars, heading right toward closer “Cryptobiotic Filth Destroyer.” The cut begins with jerky guitars and bloody growls, simmering both in prog and Mastodon-style grit. Later, calm arrives, and the band goes in a jazzier direction, with soloing so smooth you could slip on it. Maiden-inspired leads mix in with dirty southern attitude before the song disappears into a cloud of noise.
It’s clear that Bearstorm remain in the experimentation phase, and if they keep coming up with stuff as bizarre and heavy as “Biophobia,” that’s totally fine. They do a lot of things really well, and their sound actually could pull in some listeners who have been hanging on the mainstream periphery but could stand to dine on something heavier.
For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/bearstormRVA
To buy the album, go here: https://grimoirerecords.bandcamp.com/album/biophobia
For more on the label, go here: http://www.grimoirerecords.com/