It was back in 2013 when Belgian mentalists BEAR really began to burst on to the radar for many. Having just signed with progressive metal champions Basick Records, the release of their second album Noumenon gained admirable plaudits, showing a band with a very direct and brutal approach to Tech Metal/Mathcore and, despite some shortcomings, plenty of future promise. It may have taken considerable time for the follow-up, but on album three; the creatively titled /// (Basick), the hibernation seems to have done absolute wonders.

Opposed to the atmospheric approach of many of their Djent peers, BEAR have always matched technicality and convoluted time signatures with Hardcore’s in-your-face intensity and immediacy; and that side of their formula remains fully intact. Album opener ‘Blackpool’ proves an apt signal of intent, immediately unleashing a full onslaught replete with MaartenAlbrecht’s bellows with shuddering force.

Where BEAR have come on leaps and bounds is in their ability to actually write memorable, hard-hitting anthems without any watering down. The likes of ‘Masks’, ‘Childbreaker’ and ‘The Oath’ truly showcase their marrying of complex, progressive components with anthemic passages and hooks; particularly the latter which abruptly interchanges from the full throttle to a pace drop which mirrors the likes of Porcupine Tree’s moody prog.

Many a band show early signs of greatness and hunger and it is truly rewarding to see such acts smash early expectations, and on /// that is exactly what BEAR have done. Particularly in a very crowded and, at times, maligned style, BEAR have solidified their hybrid style with the songs to match and now must be seen as one of the most formidable and certainly penetrating Tech Metal bands. Where the young cubs may have had some bite before, /// shows this BEAR now has a much more grizzly roar, and the impact of a claw swipe to the face.