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Album review: Bears and Company - South of the Mountain





Album review: Bears and Company - South of the Mountain

South of the Mountain has been in the works for a while now. After a successful Kickstarter campaign in January of last year, Bears and Company set out to “create a dynamically driven record fueled by honest emotion,” according to its Kickstarter page. Dynamically driven it is, and hot damn, is it emotionally honest. This brand-new album will melt your face with heavy indie jams and just as easily melt your heart with brutal, beautiful lyrics.

If you’ve seen Bears and Company live, you’ll be insanely content as soon as you press play. “I Dreamt I Destroyed the World” tears into the audible plane with fast, riffy guitars—a live show favorite. This is one of many songs that entices the whole crowd to sing along to. Not to mention this song was released on a limited demo album the band put out last summer as an acoustic track.
 
Pay attention, because before you know it, “Occurrence in the Wildwood” is on. A graceful guitar reverb sound blends the songs wonderfully. You’ll find yourself lost in an entanglement of Logan Tyler’s smooth voice and Alex McClain’s angsty screams as they combat for the attention of your ears.
 
Again, you barely blink before “Susannah and the Elders” hits your playlist. I’d love to say this is the catchiest song on the ten-track album, but truth is, that’s just in my ears. Sitting in class, or on the clock at work, and I find myself shamelessly humming the tune to any song on the album at any time. Large sounds from gang vocals spice up the tune.
 
The Bears finally key things down from the seemingly customary heavy and fast songs with “Carroll A. Deering,” the fourth song featured on South of the Mountain. The song is a lullaby compared to what we’ve heard so far. Slow, sentimental, and heartfelt. It takes an uphill aesthetic, getting louder and more intricate during the four minute and fifty second duration. Don’t understand? Close your eyes and listen to the song, you’ll get it.
 
Keeping the tempo down and the tunes quiet, track five is just as chill as four. “When the Sky Opened” is another limited acoustic track from the Bears’ summer demos. A chillingly soft timbre emits from this song. This is the closest thing to an anthem you’ll find on this album. Starting off with a daunting and melancholy tone, the song does pick up a brighter message near the end, powering into the last half of the album.
 
“‘Return of the Hunters” and “After the Quake” are two other crowd pleasers at any Bears’ show; crowd pleaser is putting it lightly. As the band plays these songs live, the whole ambiance of the room shifts. Show patrons get closer and for several minutes every individual molds into one. It’s a weird, eerie phenomenon that is spectacular at the same time.
 
After these two powerhouse songs, you’ll run into the album’s title track, which serves as an interlude—an all-instrumental arrangement. To be the bearer of great news, this is not a break from the hard-hitting action that you’ve become accustomed to for the past half hour. This song stands just as tall and strong as any other of the nine tracks.
 
A personal favorite of mine comes next: “We Were Brothers.” It’s a sorry, remorseful song that has a plethora of ups and downs, musically and lyrically. On the latter half of the song comes a haunting, spoken-word-esque, poetic verse. Combining the screams of McClain and the angst-driven voice of Tyler, an otherworldly sound is created. This song takes the cake for the most emotional arrangement, for me at least. Just as mentioned about the catchiness of all the tracks, any given song on South of the Mountain can be claimed as the most emotional.
 
The Bears finish strong with the finale, “Moskstraumen.” In alignment with the title, this song is a perfect soundtrack for imagining large swirling bodies of water. Again, if you don’t get it, listen close, eyes closed. It’ll become clear. The dynamic shift of the heavy indie jams blending into subtle “la da da’s” pushes the song around and around, further and farther. This song was by far the best choice for an outro track.
 
The production and mastering of this album is top notch. Recording artist Aaron Crawford kept Tyler sounding sweet and soulful, his bass prominent and plucky. McClain’s voice was very vivid, but not overshadowing. McClain and lead guitarist Zachariah Knoll’s guitar works sounded perfect. Coming in loud, merging into a soft embodiment, resonating and producing feedback; gentle plucks and fast power chords fill the rest of the guitars out. The production of Allan Latini’s drum work was excellent: loud when they needed to be, heavy where appropriate, and epically proportioned to keep each and every track moving along.
 
South of the Mountain is an extremely emotional ride. The music may suggest otherwise, but listen for the meaning of each song and you’ll find several heartbreaks lurking for you. I recall a show a few months ago where I was talking to McClain after their set. He informed that this album would be his most emotional and honest work to date. That really shines through.
 
Bears and Company will be celebrating the release of South of The Mountain tomorrow, April 27, at FOKL. Doors open at 7:30, $12. The Author and The Illustrator and Clairaudients will open. Facebook event page.
 
 
 
--Steven Ervay 

Steven Ervay is super rad. 

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