Bridgend metallers I Fight Bears have only been an outfit for a scant couple of years but have already amassed quite the resume, having toured with When We Were Wolves, Perpetua and Skies In Motion as well as recording alongside Michael Paget (Bullet For My Valentine) and Gav Burrough (Funeral For A Friend).
The band’s self-titled debut, mostly self-recorded bar some work with Paget, sits somewhere between the aforementioned BFMV and Killswitch Engage; with some old-school throwback riffs but also some huge choruses, such as on lead single ‘Lost the Fight’, as well as tracks such as ‘Design & Purpose’. It’s metalcore, certainly, but without the bad taste so many modern ‘core bands leave in the mouth with over-produced beatdowns and simplistic riffing. ‘Disposed’ ‘is a great example of this, with driving, chunky riffs during verses and bridges while the chorus noticeably slows to allow the sung vocals to breathe and soar, while the guitar solo towards the end is elevated by tasteful restraint, without being complex for complexity’s sake before leading into a final chorus. There is also, of course, the requisite breakdowns in songs such as the chug and stomp in ‘Exhale’ that builds to crescendo in the guitar solo, as well as circle pit-ready anthems such as the opening of ‘Smoking Gun’ that demands attention with its Devildriver-esque mid-paced rumble. ‘Smoking Gun’ also features gang vocals a la Enter Shikari or A Day To Remember, that while present, don’t lend much weight or add much to the track overall, rarely being featured at all.
The songs follow the well-trodden path of screamed verses/bridges to sung choruses, repeated twice or thrice before the requisite breakdown but the execution is sincere enough that it doesn’t come off as contrived but as the sound of a band truly believing in what they do and giving it their all.
I Fight Bears is a measured, slick exercise in modern metal; while heavy parts do their best to bludgeon from pillar to post, they’re just a tad too slick to carry real heft. Though the band do have an undeniable ability to write a solid, memorable hook and it shows from time to time such as on lead singles ‘Hammers’ and ‘Lost the Fight’, this oftentimes gets lost in the guitars and drums that sit quite high in the mix. Overall it’s not a bad album at all; despite the formulaic song structures and almost-too-clean production, the band sound sincere and manage to pull off their KSE-lite metalcore with aplomb.