The Bear Hunters Album - Preview and Review Dec 20, 2014 22:44:04 GMT -5
Post by "The Freq" on Dec 20, 2014 22:44:04 GMT -5
LISTEN HERE! The Bear hunters
Ok, after much anticipation, local metal rockers The Bear Hunters have finally released their long awaited album "Eternal Hibernation".
Having shared the stage with this band on one occasion, I was interested to hear how this album turned out. I might point out that doing your own album takes a lot of work, a lot of patience but also a ton of dedication by everyone involved so with that being said, here are the guys in the band who sweat it out for this album.
Nik Deubel - Vocals
Mitchell Sirie - Guitar
Josh Stephney - Guitar
Justin Lam - Bass
Johnny Belanger - Drums
Now for my review of this album, I'm not going to break down the songs at all. I'm going to say what I like and what I don't like. I'm going to review the entire album from graphics to sound to song writing. You can be your own judge of the songs in general. I'm more about the final package.
So.. for me... I want to hear a tight band with musicianship. I don't want to hear musicians struggling to get through material. It has to have control and it's got to be tight especially when we're talking the metal style The Bear Hunters are in. Well, in my honest opinion, the Bear Hunters deliver. They are solid musicians and they took the time to make this album sound like they meant business as musicians. They play extremely well and rarely do you hear an "EGADS" moment on the entire CD. When I listened to the first song "Dominate" I was hoping they would convey that musicianship message right out of the box and they do. Live, they did the same thing on the show I was part of. Lots of energy live. In comparing that captured energy on this album, I'd say they did good but they are better live. Don't take that as a negative. Most bands rarely capture their "LIVE" aura on an album.. "The Who" being one example. They were always better live.
Now, let me state right now that I am not a fan of the "growl" vocals in some styles of metal. That is my taste so for me, I had to look beyond that in judging the singer on this album. So, for me I had to see if a melody of some kind was created vocally and that for me was a miss. Although his vocals are super tight with the band and powerful over all, the vocals drilled through most of the material on a drone note except for the odd scream in a higher register which was actually great to hear. I actually wanted more of that!!! He has a huge bottom end tone that delivers but I was hoping for more varied vocal patterns. On the flip side, a lot of this music style does this very thing but it's not my thing as I come from a prog rock background. On their next album I hope he expands on this as he seems to have everything else dialed in.
Ok.. the other musicians played excellent on the material and truthfully, all of them and the singer sound like a band that has worked together a ton. It feels to me like they know where the other guys are with their parts and can anticipate where their partners are going without having to guess. That's how you want to be. You want to have this physic edge where you feel where the others are going with their playing. It's here on this album.
Now for some of the issues I was disappointed in.
Let's start with songwriting. For me, I enjoy an album more if each song takes a different journey than the previous one. I like to hear rhythm changes, tempo variations, key changes but also sound variations. Sadly, on this album, that rarely happens. The sounds of the instruments seems to stay the same through out with only minor changes. I'm talking guitar sounds, bass sounds and even drums. It's one sound throughout. The keys of the songs seem to stay the same for the most part which I personally dislike. Sometimes, that works for a band... AC/DC comes to mind. In the case of the Bear Hunters, I was disappointed. I was hoping for at least one song that broke away from "formula mode" but it didn't happen. Key change to me is majorly important because I don't want to hear the continuation of the first song, into song 2 or 3. That seems to happen here.
Lyrics, I'm at a loss as I really have a hard time understanding growl vocals in metal music as a whole. If you pour your soul into lyrics, I want to hear them, not read them. That's just me. This style of music eludes me for that reason.
I'm also not a fan of all the guitars and bass playing the same patterns throughout an album. This album falls into that trouble quite a few times but does break out of it on a few tunes. I understand that it helps tighten up the song when you do that but it's a challenge to have the guitars doing counter melodies and the bass doing another and trying to make that sound tight. The Bear Hunters stick to formula here and really don't experiment that way too often. That's not a bad thing but a safe thing. I hope album 2 will explore counter melodies. It was nice to hear some rhythm changes in parts of the material. The intro to the song "Karma" is an example of that.
Now, the mix. Tons of local musicians including myself have our own home studios these days. It's cheaper, it gives us more control and it let's us produce output of material without being beat up by some record producer. The down side is that all the rules get broken for recording and mixing. Some work, some don't. In listening to this album from beginning to end one conclusion came forward almost immediately and that was... it was mixed by a guitarist. That's a guess but my ears tell me it was. The guitar sounds are tight, thick and pretty huge and it's obvious some time was put into making them sound that way. They are up front in the mix and unfortunately, too much in front. I've listened to the album on two sound rigs and I get the same result. You may come to a different conclusion on your own stereos. The drums just aren't there in the mix or even with the guitars. I also felt the bass sound just wasn't there in the mix. Both were gobbled up by guitar sound. The one thing that tunneled through the guitar were the vocals which is a good thing but unusual with this type of music. The bass player in this band live, is a kick ass player but his playing is swallowed up in the mix and I was truly disappointed in that. The drum mix I found thin and distant but could hear most of what the drummer played with a bit of ear straining. This is the beast that comes out when you try and do everything yourselves with a recording product. The good thing is, you can do better the next album. The mix on the Bear Hunters is not bad but it's missing some life and when you don't bring all the rhythm instruments to the fore front with the same vigor, the sound is lopsided. This is my opinion. You may think differently. Not really hearing a good sound mix connection between that bass player and the drummer, who are both solid players I might add, was a let down for me. Bass and drums should be glued together in sound not just playing. True, I'm a drummer first, but on the flipside, I"m a bass player and guitarist and want to have those 3 instruments locked in volume and sound quality. Over all, a decent sounding album but with a little more magic needed at the mixing stage. ;-)
Drum wise, he sounds comfortable with the material and I assume he played to a click track. I don't hear any major struggling with that which is taboo with a lot of drummers. His drumming on the album leaves you the impression he's on a mission and that he loves playing this style of music. That's what this style of music is about. For me, I like more dynamics, soft, loud, busy, not busy types of playing. I'm sure this guy can do it, but he kept the grooves straight with the rhythm section. For me, I would have loved to have heard him stretch out a ton more. In other words......"Give 'er!!"
As for the graphic design of the album.. I love the cover photo. If ever there was a perfect photo for a band name, album name and vibe of the band, this is ultra cool. I'm glad they didn't go for that tired old creepy band pose like they wanted to bite the head off a politician. :-)
My personal faves for songs are Dominate, Render This Void ( with a nice lead break), Karma (love the intro), Succumb To Eternity (Cool Bass Drum Pattern)
The album over all for me is a 6/10 score. It's a good album and really, a plus for the Sault Music scene. Let's keep the local music coming.
If you agree or disagree with my rant on this album, I don't care. I'm being honest. Everyone will have their own opinion. I just like to share mine. Keep in mind, these guys put out some original music.. What have you done lately?? It doesn't matter what we rate this album because the big picture is.. they put out an album where as most local musicians just talk about it or dream about it. These guys did it and that's all that really matters.