Propaganda (Pelagic Records) is the first full length I’ve gotten my hands on from Belgian exports, BEAR. In description to their sound I see lots of online chatter about it being labeled as Progressive Hardcore which to me sounds very appealing as it conjures up thought of Botch or early Between the Buried and Me. And while there are moments of zonked out Prog on Propaganda, I’d say it was akin to Groove Metal even though I’ve never been particularly jazzed about that as a genre moniker.

On Propaganda what slightly bums me out – at least in the first half – is that it never fully commits to the cerebral Prog bits or the fast-twitch Hardcore muscle. I mean I have been binging on Leviathan and Blood Mountain era Mastodon while in quarantine so maybe my brain has been accustomed to that trippy brand of Progressive Metal. Can I ever go back to more streamlined music after spending weeks traveling that quantum realm? Probably not. Is time even real?

But fortunately for BEAR they really start cooking with vespene gas on the second half of Propaganda. I mean early cuts like the title track and ‘Apollo’s Heist’ thrash and groove in the vein of Toothgrinder, but you’re going to want to jump into the wackier stuff. The first sign of a detour comes in the form of ‘Mite’ which is primarily acoustics and low-end that seems to be building towards the rapture but stops just shy of the two-minute mark. On ‘Gutter Love’ they start chumming the water with lots of feedback and quick bursts of speed that could induce whiplash. By the time we arrive on ‘Engine’ and it’s weird Intronaut-like riffs and rhythms, the realization dawns that we should have been here from the outset. And in one final left-turn, ‘Kuma’ wraps up Propaganda by investing in strong melodies and a healthy breakdown that will put the unsuspecting on their ass.

Uneven? Sure, but it is certainly worth taking the trek and getting weird.

7 / 10