Review Summary: A new vocalist means mixed results for Iwrestledabearonce's latest album, but at least the band's songs seem more focused than ever before. This time, they aren't quite "ruining it for everybody".
Whilst they haven’t exactly been the easiest of bands to pigeonhole into one particular genre, there’s no doubt that Iwrestledabearonce have had quite a bit of success in the last few years. Touring with the likes of TDEP and August burns red have solidified the band’s reputation as the musical equivalent of a self-harming schizophrenic, but there’s really one big problem that has marred their future from becoming ever brighter. As with other bands who do the exact same thing, Iwrestledabearonce have tried, tested and failed when experimenting with every genre under the sun and it seems that none but the most devoted fans of the band are actually taking them seriously. Even when guitarist Steven Bradley “admitted” that the band’s second album would be “90% black metal” (the record being anything but), nobody really took any notice until the band’s appearance at the Warped tour last year.
However, a lot has changed for the band recently, and this is strongly evident on their latest album, “Late for nothing”. Given that singer Krysta Cameron was announced to be pregnant at Warped tour last year, it was clear that a replacement was instantly needed and none other than a rather unknown Courtney LaPlante stepped in to take up the official duties, herself coincidentally being a “good friend” of Cameron. LaPlante’s vocal style, whilst not that different to Cameron’s, does seem to pack quite a punch when screaming through a multitude of frantic sounds. The harshness of her vocals do play quite a vital part in songs such as ‘Thunder chunky’, ‘Letters to Stallone’ and ‘I’d buy that for a dollar’, yet when harmonizing with vocals of a cleaner, more audible nature, the quality of the songs are lowered a bit. It’s not that her harsh vocals are considerably stronger in comparison, it’s just that when singing cleanly, LaPlante often sounds like she’s getting bored of herself too quickly. Take ‘Firebees’ for example, a song that consists of some rather average metalcore and a far too polished production. LaPlante, evidently having a nice vocal range to suit whichever mood is produced by the instrumentation, does try hard to convey contrasting emotions with her voice, yet it just comes across as too shaky a voice to be called comfortable listening. A few songs-most notably the ballad-like intensity of ‘Mind the gap’ and short but sweet ‘Snake charmer’-do benefit from LaPlante’s sometimes luscious voice, but you'll quickly wonder whether the band are better off being completely instrumental than with a singer of so-so vocal performances.
The one thing about “Late for nothing” that will make skeptics turn their heads is perhaps the more simplistic song structures, which this time round have more of a sense of direction than ever before. Yes, a few of the songs do appear to bear the same problems of the band’s past (‘Carnage asada’ features an instrumental contribution from none other than Steve Vai, but the song goes absolutely nowhere and results in an unhealthy musical mess), but one listen to the melodic introductions of opener ‘Thunder chunky’ and a more experimental ‘Firebees’ and you’ll notice the band have matured more in recent times. Perhaps the most prominent instrument of the album is the guitars, which chug along furiously on songs such as ‘That’s a horse of a different color’ but then take on more experimental sounds for better results on ‘Snake charmer’ and ‘Inside job’, concluding in a much better and more beautiful culmination of manic rhythms and frantic atmospheres. The drum and bass work isn't particularly anything special, given that most of the focus seems to be on the guitars, but the electronica influences floating around in the background of ‘Boat paddle’ and ‘Firebees’ do benefit from having a greater sense of variation.
Whilst Iwrestledabearonce’s latest album is far from being perfect, the changes in structure and sound do prove quite advantageous. “Late for nothing” could do without songs as useless as ‘Carnage asada’ and ‘I’d buy that for a dollar’, but for the most part what the band have achieved here is a greater sense of direction and a much more serious take on musical experimentation. Perhaps you’ll still be thinking of them skeptically as a band that just can’t settle on one particular genre, but on this evidence, it appears that Iwrestledabearonce still have a few surprises left in them.