Review Summary: An emotionally tense and beautiful Post Hardcore masterpiece, truly a testament to everything that is great about both Bear Vs. Shark and the genre they represent, whatever it may truly be.
Bear Vs. Shark. The very name brings back memories of my childhood, being five years old and caught up in a fierce argument with my younger brother that there is no way
that Spider Man could beat an army of Tyrannosaurus Rex. Of course, the only action figure I had that could trump such odds would be my Wolverine figure, and I didn’t allow anyone else to play with him. In the event of a Bear fighting a Shark, it’s hard to say who would win. I suppose that we, the audience, would have to take into account the terrain, and if the Bear would be fighting the shark in a shallow pool or if the Bear would be wearing a scuba outfit whilst fighting his aquamarine adversary in the ocean. Regardless, it would be a clash of two polar opposites, two predators that come from completely different worlds coming together and colliding into one another to create one. This same idea holds true for the Michigan based band that this review is about; only instead of a Bear and a Shark, they combine traditional Hardcore and Post Hardcore with an infectious blend of Midwest Indie. The results of this match up are nothing less than amazing.
Bear Vs. Shark
Right Now You’re In The Best of Hands
It isn’t easy to completely pin a genre on Bear Vs. Shark, but as I previously stated, they play a unique fusion of Post Hardcore and Indie. Their sound brings to mind names like At The Drive In, Fugazi, and Maps and Atlases; but they are still distinctly different from each of the aforementioned acts. What puts Bear Vs. Shark ahead of most modern music today though, is how their absolutely impeccable sense of melody plays into their music. They create music that is not only aggressive and unique, but shockingly catchy and poppy as well. Even when vocalist Marc Paffi is screaming his lungs out, they retain a bouncy pop feel, clearly a characteristic brought in by their Midwest Indie influence. Their music is everything that Post Hardcore should be: Aggressive, Unpredictable, and most importantly Honest
, and the vast array of influence that Bear Vs. Shark incorporates grants them accessibility beyond the typical punk audience. While they do often take quite an abrasive route with their sound, there is enough pop sensibility to attract any kind of music lover, a testament to the band’s crossover appeal.
As I talked about earlier Bear Vs. Shark brilliantly balance melody with plenty of aggressive parts, transitioning in and out of screaming to soft, beautiful, melodies. Like many bands, this soft loud dynamic plays a huge role in their sound, but not in the traditional sense. Instead of opting for a rather generic formula of screamed verses and catchy choruses, Paffi completely blends the two together and transitions from singing to screaming seamlessly, multiple times in each chorus and verse. This ultimately adds to the band’s unpredictability, and keeps the music fresh. There is so much variation in the vocals that they often feel like an instrument themselves, pushing the music in different directions and jumping around odd time signatures like clowns at a rodeo.
Paffi’s performance on Right Now You’re In The Best of Hands
is brilliant to say the least. His screaming and singing are so genuine that you can’t help but love him. His screaming is phenomenal, and despite being abrasive it follows suite with the rest of the band and is still strangely catchy. Additionally, with all the screaming, it makes his clean performances that much more beautiful. On The Employee Is Not Afriad
his performance comes acrosse as so honest and sentimental that it is easily a vocal highlight on the album, and the screaming that closes out the song is performed with total melodic brilliance. Another highlight for Paffi is undoubtedly Kylie
, another one of the album’s best songs. He makes perfect use of the loud soft dynamic, escalating to screaming with a whim as the music becomes more and more emotional, and weaving melodies in and out of the verses. Instrumentally, Bear Vs. Shark is by no means a technical band, but they have a unique sound and; most importantly, they compliment the vocals perfectly. The guitar work revolves mostly around power chords, warped riffs, and the occasional odd time signature. It really shines in the slower songs, like Kylie
, playing soft jazzy parts and strange chords. The drums and bass work together very well, specifically on Bloodgiver
, where a bouncy bass line and catchy drum beat make one of the most entertaining and enjoyable songs that the band has to offer.
For all that is great about Right Now You’re In The Best of Hands
, there is still some fault. The two tracks, Kylie
should have been places farther apart, as they offer the most melodic relief on the album and the band could benefit from spacing them out a bit. A couple of the tracks are also only average, they are still good, but pale in comparison to the rest of the album. Still, these are minor faults and nothing that detracts from the CD as a whole.
As I became older and more mature, I eventually stopped playing with action figures. Being twelve and bringing Stretch Armstrong to school in my backpack was threatening to warrant me a lifetime of humiliation, and I had already gotten in trouble enough for yelling They aren’t dolls! They’re action figures you dick!!”
. But inevitably, one thing stuck with me from those years of agoraphobia. It isn’t actually about if Wolverine can beat Cyclops. It’s about how cool the fight between the two is. This, once again, stands true with Bear Vs. Shark. They achieve the perfect dynamic balance between the two polar opposites, and the magic that happens with combining the two managed to generate one of the best releases of the early 21st Century. So go get a copy of this, sit down with a drink, and as the battle rages upon you ask yourself: Could Wolverine have beaten both a Bear and a Shark?