Bearstorm
Americanus

Here’s some goddamn fine woodsy, melodically aggressive black metal from the deep, dank forests of Virginia.  First up, Bearstorm are signed to Grimoire Records, so that’s practically a blood-stamped seal of quality right there.  Secondly, these badasses have an interesting approach to the genre that’s hard for me to put a claw on.  They remind me of that rocked-out, melody-spliced blackened hardcore that The Year of our Lord did so damn well but with the dazzling guitar licks and vehement snarl of prime Enslaved and maybe, just maybe a bit of Voivod, Rush, Epoch of Unlight and pre-clean vocal Katatonia in terms of the complexity of the instrumental arrangements.  These beast skinners are progressive but THANKFULLY not symphonic or I’d be out the door lookin’ for a beer instead of giving this a review.

Massive opener “Glacial Relic/Riparian Forest” is a goddamn blizzard cast directly from the hand of God.  Guitarist Kelsey Miller is in complete command of the art; launching into nimble, leaping melodic arpeggios, winding harmonies and even riffs that have a doomed in the graveyard, rocked-out feel to ‘em.  The 6-string assault moves like a ninja and kills like a Navy Seal, while there’s an unheard of amount of clarity to the rhythm section of bassist Jay Lindsey and drummer Patrick DeRoche.  That bass is big n’ burp-y, always present in the mix and adding way more groove and swing than most black metal bands would even dare to attempt.  The percussive quake ranges from ambient, halted beats and ghostly cymbal taps to frenetic fills that literally smash every piece of the kit tastefully and tactfully.  There’s nary a blast-beat to be found in this lengthy foray and despite a manic finale of piss n’ peroxide guitar shredding, the drumming keeps things in check.  What Michael Edwards’ vocals lack in variation they make up in sheer tone and performance.  He’s got a frost-burnt, scalded-lung rasp that’s right upfront in the mix where it needs to be and it’s plenty engaging in its ability to make you want to read along to the lyric sheet in the booklet (the lyrics are fuckin’ cool too).  Every single path of song construction is explored during the process of this 11+ minute Ice Age thaw and the instrumentation practically grabs you by the throat demanding your full attention.

“De Soto” castrates melody for thick, burgeoning riffs in its early going that are a fuckin’ catchy blackened-prog nightmare you won’t be waking up from.  The vocals twist into a deeper, death-y vomit as the rhythm section combines their talents for sheer density.  That riff at 1:07 kicks all manner of raw ass with a spiked, steel-toe boot to the rectum and actually coalesces into some semblance of head-banging groove interrupted frequently by twitchy, paranoid guitar/bass melody runs.  This beast gets a nice little mid-tempo blast going but nothing that approaches Norwegian lo-fi speed thrill kills.  Both the riff and general instrumental progressions hook your heart with a meathook and force you to listen from start to finish…yet you never feel it’s a chore and will be a willing victim to Bearstorm’s sepulcher preaching.  A brutish, late game slowdown crunches like brain under boot and Miller applies a gorgeous lead on top with a fuckin’ banjo ending??  It could be a guitar I dunno man…  I got a Sabbath riff surprise during the intro of “Little Portals to the Greater Sadness,” shit son, that’s a groove done right and something you’re only going to hear from south of the Mason Dixon.  Lindsey plunges his swinging heft with a funky playfulness, colliding into a cymbal ghosting jazz beat from DeRoche.  Then the low-end slips into a sleazy, plucky tech-lick as the entire band jettisons all notion of composure into the stratosphere with blackened ADD chaos that’s practically jazzy in its unfolding.  They don’t forget to bring a stocking stuffed with body parts and big fat riffs to the Christmas party.  Even odder, I feel like somebody’s attempting to play Wishbone Ash, Rush, Enslaved and The Year of Our Lord all at the same time.  It shouldn’t work but it does and it’s progressive without the pretense.

A ringing set of chords, bone dry melodies and vast barren expanse marks the guitar-work that intros “Why we can’t have nice things.”  Again those bass lines are belching and purging just as high up in the production as the guitars and split from the main trajectory to create their own melodies while Kelsey winds, wraps and undulates a black-tinged lick around the listener’s throat.  Doom-y dissension usurps the pacing with ugly, sludgy riffs, defiled vocal screams and jagged stop/start tactics providing abrasive juxtaposition to those jeweled lead guitar melodies.  Grime-soaked, mid-paced death metal tendencies also permeate the begotten imagery conjured by these heathen vomiting souls.  Closer “Glacial Relic II” only enforces what I’ve already told you about…the guitar-work in this jam is outstanding and it challenges any melo-death band from Sweden in the “soar department” without sounding sterile, cliché or that “g” word I’d rather not toss around hither tither.

Americanus is a fuckin’ excellent album from a band that will hopefully get into a groove of releasing material regularly.  It’s not common at all for its chosen genre and doesn’t have that “hipster” appeal either; the aggression and dazzling instrumentation firmly root it in the terra firma.  I’ve already played this beast many times on repeat and I can only predict a similar future listening pattern with Bearstorm.  Good fuckin’ stuff.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Jay S
October 21st, 2015

Comments

  1. Commented by: jay

    wow thank you


  2. Commented by: Jay

    You’re welcome Jay! Thanks for the music! I love this album and I bought it off of Grimoire. Damn good stuff.


  3. Commented by: bast

    Thanks for the review, great album!


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