Hailing right from my home state of Michigan, it is with a particular sense of pride that I have watched the five-piece avant-garde post rock outfit Bear Vs. Shark evolve. Their debut, Right Now, You're in the Best of Hands...was a simply amazing blend of hardcore vocals, quiet shoe-gazing pop, mathy and angular guitars, and even keyboard drenched backgrounds. To be honest, I loved Right Now so much I was starting to doubt this 2nd album, Terrorhawk, would be anywhere in the same galaxy. Boy, was I wrong.
Terrorhawk is an album needing actual songs to be heard for accurate comprehension. No words I have in my vocabulary can accurately describe the height to which Bear Vs. Shark have risen. The band, which has already sported enough influences to make it difficult to determine their sound, has now blended so many genres that it is indescribable. The traditionally off-kilter lyrics have also gone further off the deep end, with titles and phrases seeming to be largely whimsical yet poignant.
Opener "Catamaran" has a scratchy starting riff and a piano backdrop before high-speed and frenzied post-rock blasts out through the speakers. This song is in the vein of earlier Bear Vs. Shark, and a swank start to the album.
"5, 6 Kids" is where things take a turn. The song glides in on boozed up, dirty, math chords and a restrained drum beat. The song's air-tight power chord chorus and twinkling keyboard effects sound so polished you'd swear you could see your reflection in each note.
"Six Bar Phrase Hey Hey" is a twenty-eight second blast of optimistic and frenetic post-hardcore. "The Great Dinosaurs with Fifties Section" is an apocalyptic dirge over spacey guitars and with blasts from vocalist Marc Paffi's seemingly airless lungs. The completely genius "Baraga Embankment" is one of the most interesting songs I've ever heard. This slowly-growing jam mixes piano balladry, melancholy futuristic rock, and somehow the sounds of classic Motown. Hearing a horn section and jazz piano in a Bear Vs Shark song is like seeing Husker Du jam with Ray Charles at the height of both of their careers. This is simply a song you have to hear.
"Entrance of the Elected" is a bass-line ballad interspersed with airy notes falling face-down into a cavern and blasts of air vomiting them back up with the force of an F-5 tornado.
"Seven Stop Hold Restart"is a straight-up hydrogen bomb; that throat-rippping, pulmonary-collapsing shriek that Marc Paffi can hit totally shreds through this track many a time.
The folksy "What a Horrible Night for a Curse" is a grandiose tumbleweed of a song. This is what happens when folk/americana is grafted ever so delicately to an art-rock act.
"Out Loud Hey Hey" is a hip drive-by of garage-leaning alternative rock, and the sinister "India Foot" is a nightmarish blend of cut-and-paste soundscapes that would do (dare I say it?) recent Fantomas proud to a certain degree.
"Antwan" is artsy post-rock with angular lo-fi chords, poetic rambling, and rare glimpses of quasi-mainstream sanity. "I F*cked your Dad" rumbles into existence with an almost sludgey intro and flourishes of wavering, almost organ-like keyboard keys and laid-back, fuzzy guitars.
"Heard Iron Bug, 'They're Coming to Town" is a pit-worthy breakdown into what sounds like the spoutings of a deranged, washed up rap artist. As the surreal pairing teeters back and forth, one has to wonder if this is what karoake in Hell sounds like....just as the song rolls around into coked-out singing and one last rendition of that insane riffing.
"Song about Old Roller Coaster" is a sad slow-jam that somehows mixes amped prog rock with neo-classical piano glimmering here and there into a second or two of 1980's new-wave synth. By the song's bombastic finish, a minute or two of silence slowly brings one back to Earth, as Paffi quietly pleads in his gloriously modernistic ramblings and the band explodes into a multi-genred freakout. "Rich People Say Yeah Hey Hey" ends Terrorhawk with a bang, it's funky art rock flying by at insane speeds.
Bear Vs. Shark have steeped Terrorhawk so deep into the very mythos of music itself that any fan from almost any genre should find a song or two to fit here. This is the screamo/post-hardcore band that most of those bands in that genre strive to emulate. The weirdest part is that they haven't hit the mainstream yet. Watch out for Bear Vs. Shark; these guys have something only a few bands get. In conclusion, Terrorhawk is an outstanding album that should propel Bear Vs. Shark to that next level. "Have you heard Iron Bug? Bear Vs. Shark is coming to town."