Album: Shallow Waters, Endless Depth
Genre: Experimental Rock
Label: Tragic Hero
Lions!Tigers!Bears! have an irritating name when it comes to punctuation, but I’m imagining it’s a play on a Wizard of Oz quote so I can overlook that. As it is, Shallow Waters, Endless Depth is a fine title and a good metaphor for their music, which is surprisingly nuanced and enjoyable considering how much it could pass for a solid, unfeeling mound of noise.
The album wastes no time in kicking off with the song “12 Years and 2 Spoons Later,” lacing the air with a bristling riff before exploding into furtive growling. It sets an early trademark in contrasting its vocals, between clean, high-pitched heights and gloomy, menacing depths. The pace of the song is frenetic, and as it barely pauses for breath it’s exciting and arresting in equal measure. Yet it’s not a totally uncompromising fist-pumper – there are little delicate touches (trembling keys for instance) which add some class and vibrancy to the heaviness elsewhere.
“Boots for Tasers” has a story-like feel to it, pausing intermittently for exposition and delivering drama and grandeur in spades with some string samples and towering vocal triumphs. This is mixed with the bombast of the growling for a glittering showdown during the chorus. It’s rhythmic and teasing, pacy and dynamic, and keeps momentum set firmly high. “Vault 101” is theatrical and dark, with an almost cinematic feel in scope. It pummels its way through the opening segment, before unleashing a more concerted, hearty centre with group vocals, clean singing, and earnest musicianship. There’s a complete change in direction about halfway through, with a brief verse founded on an electro line that maximizes the squeaking potential of Dorian Ford’s dulcet tones.
“Go Go Gadget Copter” has a title worthy of Power Rangers, and it’s also something of an exhilarating song. It mixes potent animosity with a shrill, animated vocal line to culminate in a stunning bass-led breakdown. This leads to more hare-brained power beats, before a rather unanticipated, yet strangely soothing piano outlay concludes matters. “The Grey Fox” keeps the taut atmosphere alive – indeed, as the record progresses, it becomes almost a blur of atmospheric undertones crashing heartily against loud, forceful music. This is firmly evidenced by a charismatic ending to this track, as the various elements converge and spark against a stubborn piano medley.
Further on, “Courage Wolf” opens on an eerie landscape of synth. Aesthetic flourishes like this, coupled with the harmonies, tend to be standouts – the music itself varies between capable and formulaic; good but never amazing. Here, the crafty blending of synth to create a creeping, almost paranoid subtext mixes beautifully with the soaring vocals. “The Most Interesting Man in the World” chimes in stirringly, a solo riff crackling with vivid life which builds to a powerful climax. This is a perfectly executed song, perhaps the best on the album. It’s persistent in its aural onslaught and never lets up, even for a second, as it flips at breakneck pace between rhythm, tone, and settings.
“Seahorse Seahell” is marauding and crushing. It sets aim and takes no prisoners. Though slower than the others at times, it seems determined to make a malevolent point. As an injection of velocity, it provides a brief intermission from the cleaner stuff, and spurs some old-fashioned headbanging back into the mix. F.I.N. ends things on a high note, building from a gripping start to become more melodious, with an almost poppy chorus. It lingers in the upper echelons quite shamelessly, though when it falls back to earth it has a delicious beat – propelled to further heights by mildly sombre group vocals.
Indeed, this is a difficult album to critique in one sense – it’s a touch different, it’s well executed and it sounds really good. Yet, in another sense, it feels horribly like one prolonged chunk of riffage that doesn’t always let the flair in between shine. However, this could all be a moot point, as it’s an entertaining listen and much better than your average noise crew offering. Setting disgruntled tendencies aside thus, I say give it a spin – it may not necessarily stay with you, but you should enjoy it while it lasts!
Review written by: Grace Duffy