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Bear Mace – Charred Field Of Slaughter

Bear Mace
Charred Field Of Slaughter
by Dan O'Connor at 02 August 2020, 7:03 PM

As you get ready to dive in and listen to BEAR MACE’s second full length album "Charred Field Of Slaughter" all signs point to an experience that sets out to bombard the listen with as much brutality and unbridled aggression as possible.

The capitalized band name, the artwork’s mutilated face, song titles such as ‘From The Sky Rains Hell’ and the title track itself; there is nothing subtle about BEAR MACE in terms of presentation. What makes this record so intriguing though is the way Chicago OSDM outfit strays ever-so-slightly away from the sheer blunt-force trauma that you go in expecting.

The strength of this record does not lie in its savagery. The riffs are ferocious, yet primitive. The pace is frantic, yet not-quite blistering. You will find similar bands in the genre who choose to play harder and faster but anything BEAR MACE lack in these departments, they more than make up for with excellent composition and songwriting.

Opening tracks "Hibernation – Destroyed By Bears" immediately creates an atmosphere of pure dread and foreboding that remains for the next 35 minutes, mainly thanks to the shrieking lead guitar and familiar ‘bell of death’ from the ride cymbal that instinctively causes you to ready yourself for an oncoming assault. When the song progresses into its main riff, BEAR MACE pick up where they left on their last record, "Butchering The Colossus," by proving they have all the necessary fundamentals you’d expect; pummelling blast beats, chugging guitars, jagged riffs and growled vocals all feature in a solid if unremarkable song.

Speaking of the vocals, it’s worth highlighting Chris Scearce’s performance; it’s certainly guttural and haunting, but his almost narrated delivery will prove to be divisive to some, sometimes lacking the ferocity you might expect from any top-tier death metal vocalist. How much enjoyment you will get from the vocals will almost certainly be down to personal preference though.

It’s perhaps not until track three "Xenomorphic Conquest" when we see the peak of this five-piece’s songwriting abilities. John Borada’s menacing distorted bass intro, chugging riffs from guitarists Mark Sugar and Tommy Bellino and powerful double-bass driven drumming from Garry Naples fuel five minutes of thundering twist and turns.  The way this group seamlessly change tempos, alter patterns and join sections together demands your attention in the best way possible. This, along with some excellent guitar solos which are equal parts soulful and spine-chilling, elevates BEAR MACE above a lot of their genre contemporaries.

These same qualities are carried over straight into the track "Let Crack The Whip;" on paper, it’s sounds nonsensical that a typical death metal riff of triplets could seamlessly transition into a groove metal-esque chorus not unlike something from PANTERA or LAMB OF GOD, and then go straight into a breakdown that sounds like it could have been lifted straight from SLAYER’s "South Of Heaven" sessions. All of this is done without compromising the aforementioned atmosphere already created; everything feels right in its given place.  When Scearce bellows "Let Crack The Whip" in the chorus, you may not be certain what that whip signifies but you fear it all the same. It’s a spine-tingling moment that is undoubtedly the most memorable moment of the entire album.

More of the barbed guitar hooks and machine gun drumming and excellent solos can be expected throughout the second half of the album in abundance, all while drawing from the wide array of influences and styles previously mentioned. The effortless manner in which sections are woven together prevents any listener fatigue from setting in. Whenever you feel repetition or dullness threatening to dampen the listening experience, rest assured that there is something right around the corner waiting to slap you in the face for even thinking about skipping to the next song.  For example, the opening moments of "Plague Storm" feel slightly underwhelming before immediately transitioning into the most frantic and demented riff of the record. "From The Sky Rains Hell" might marginally be the least satisfying track on offer (albeit still a very good one), yet contains a chaotic duel guitar solo worthy of a serving as a soundtrack to the barren apocalypse they have depicted.

"Charred Field Of Slaughter" is far from a perfect album, but it’s impossible to deny the sheer level of musicianship that goes into crafting a record such as this. While there are certainly one or two riffs that might sound a bit too overfamiliar (or dare I say, ‘generic’…), there is an exceptional amount of creativity and well-thought out songwriting on display here. How BEAR MACE have managed to fit in so much to feast on it just 8 tracks (only two of which barely exceed the 5 minute mark) is a feat in itself. Any fan of metal brave enough to dare journey to the "Charred Field Of Slaughter" will almost certainly find enough blissful havoc there to warrant another visit.

Songwriting: 8
Musicianship: 8
Memorability: 8
Production: 7


4 Star Rating

Tracklist:
1. Hibernation – Destroyed By Bears
2. Rogue Weapon
3. Xenomorphic Conquest
4. Let Crack The Whip
5. Charred Field Of Slaughter
6. Plague Storm
7. From The Sky Rains Hell
8. Brain Rot
Lineup:
Chris Scearce - Vocals
Mark Sugar - Guitar
Tommy Bellino - Guitar
John Porada - Bass
Garry Naples – Drums
Record Label: Independent
     


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