Kicking off with Death of a Constellation, Chicago’s Bear Mace rips through the veil of silence wielding claws of old school death metal to a fatal sharpness. Never short on riffs, this first track off Butchering the Colossus develops a death metal fanfare riff into an apocalyptically heavy chorus. Right after this is an almost orchestrated, white-hot solo – that is to say it’s the right dosage of showy shredding before locking in and moving with the riff perfectly in its conclusion. The interlude is switching between a waltz of doom and a signature horn-raising riff of death metal, all before returning to the verse and chorus a final time.
After a powerful introduction to Bear Mace’s debut full-length album, Cyclone of Shrapnel continues in similar fashion. Taking a formed single-note riff and breaking it down to its blackened foundation, only to shift into blast-beats and chaotic chord riffage. The interlude starts with a dual-guitar harmony – a memorable melody followed by a solo even more sickening and black than the previous. Third track, I Bleed for Vengeance, slowly backs off on the accelerator in favour for a steady barrage for the rhythm section to push through. A huge riff incorporating sliding power chords and pinch harmonics becomes increasingly diminished of notes to form a song spacious for vocals and rhythm – a good placement in the tracklist. I Bleed for Vengeance’s solo is once again befitting and proving the guitarist skilled with keeping to a theme of destruction, death, and power.
Title track Butchering the Colossus was released as a single back in 2013, an example for what founding members Crossbow Death (guitar) and vocalist Lord Devourer envisioned. Rounding up some tight performers in the scene of Chicago (Mike Cirrhosis on guitar, Steevil Dead on bass, and the most fitting name of them all, Garry Napalm, on drums), Butchering the Colossus is clearly influential, and understandably. Classic single-note melodies over huge grooves of doom, single-note and chord riffage on par with Slayer, double kick onslaught unforgiving, solo faster and better constructed than ever before – all tracks have taken their cues from this behemoth of a single.
The second half – Leave Nothing Here Alive (a song for all the solo shredders out there), Lord Devourer of the Dead (substitute single if ever needed), Wheel of Despair (most old school sound; production and composition), and Anguirus the Destroyer (stunningly 80s with their tightest link of guitars and vocals) – further showcases the American lineage of death metal. While the metalheads in EU drew their water from punk (D-beat groove), American death metalheads further blended punk and metal in the mania of Thrash.
Bear Mace holds its own in the violence of Chicago, reflecting both the history of death metal without a fault and their experiences. They’re able to keep up with the best of them – Death, Bolt Thrower, Massacre, or Carcass – seldom at a loss for words or ideas. Butchering the Colossus is already a favourite album release of the year for yours truly, awaiting a tour down under in the not-so-distant future.