I was never any good at Maths at school, in fact, I had to have personal tuition: equations in particular weren’t my thing. Embarrassingly so I would say. Despite this, even I know if you take a combined set of influences that include Killswitch Engage, Parkway Drive, Miss May I and Lamb of God, the sum of that equation is going to be one thing and one thing only…Heavy.
That is exactly what Bridgend, Wales’ I Fight Bears do on their self-titled debut. Hailing from the same Welsh town that bought you Bullet For My Valentine and Funeral For A Friend the quintet unashamedly wear their influences on their sleeves and this record is a big ol’ fat chunk of Metalcore. It’s not really original, but it still ticks all the boxes and leaves you happy that your ears have taken something of a battering.
In a relatively short period of time, Dan Blackmore (Vocals), Marc James (Guitars), Chris Treharne (Guitars), Drew Hamley (Bass & Vocals) and Scott Preece (Drums) have crafted some solid songs and fine melodies on their debut.
Opener ‘Hammers’ powers in with Miss May I like guitars and huge screamed vocals from Blackmore (who does actually sound like Levi Benton in A LOT of places on this record). Hamley possesses a great set of lungs on him as well, with the clean vocals throughout very reminiscent of early War of Ages.
‘Envision’ is up next and if there is ever a track that Killswitch didn’t write, but should have done, it’s this one. The guitar work is precise and the dual screaming/sung chorus works very well.
Recent single ‘Lost the Fight’ also proudly adorns its Killswitch influences and comes equipped with a pretty nifty lyric video as well (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cYHzAUj_tzY). There is a sizeable chorus here as well “I lost the fight I can’t go on, I lost the will I think I’m done”. This track also features a quite savage breakdown in the middle, which may cause a fair amount of flailing limbs during live performances. A definite highlight track for me.
‘Design & Purpose’, ‘Life of One’ and ‘Disposed’ keep things ticking along nicely, all offering solid evidence that in Blackmore & Hamley I Fight Bears possess a vocal duo who give them a head start on a lot of rising Metalcore bands in the UK and that, with James and Treharne as their stringsmen, you’re never far away from another beefy riff or sweeping solo (all of which are very tasteful and in keeping with their genre).
‘Trust’ thunders in with a circle pit friendly riff and powerful drumming from Scott Preece, including a demonstration of just how quick his feet are. This track has a very As I Lay Dying vibe to it including matched up screaming and singing vocals in the chorus once again.
‘Exhale’ has a quite Nu-metal vibe to the original riff, bouncy and very energetic before giving out to another huge chorus soaked in melody. The solo near the end is once again very tasteful, not trying too hard to be the centre of attention.
‘Smoking Gun’ is very reminiscent of ‘As Daylight Dies’ era Killswitch, with a strong nod to ‘This is Absolution’ in the riffery. Another call and response chorus rings through. One riff that really made me smile in the song is the riff and melody before the Solo around the 2:50 mark. I was nodding along in the car, smirk on my face, thinking to myself, “I’m listening to the next Bury Tomorrow here”.
Final track ‘System’ is ushered in with a chaotic riff that brings back memories of God Forbid and as a closing track, it really doesn’t get more violent than this.
If I had one criticism of this record, it would be that it needs a moment to just chill out a bit. It’s relentless from minute one. It needs a big “End of Heartache” slap bang in the middle. But I’m splitting hairs there if I’m honest.
Once I had finished listening, I wondered to myself if the state of Metal in the UK means it’s becoming too watered down. Whilst there is a rise of “NWOCR” (New Wave of Classic Rock) bands sweeping through the country at the moment, is there a fear that metal will get left behind as people search for something different to Metalcore?.. then I remembered I’d just listened to 10 tracks that show exactly why it’s still important, and why the Brits can lead a resurgence of the genre.
Lost the Fight
Design & Purpose
Life Of One
Check out more from I Fight Bears on their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/ifightbearsband/