Though I live in quasi-bear country, I had no idea “bear mace” was a thing until I started researching Bear Mace (the band). While I know encounters with real-life Pooh bears are no laughing matter, there’s something comical about whipping out a can of bear mace to fend off a charging Grizzly. I mean, seriously, what are the odds that everything is going to end well? While there’s plenty to read on the subject of bear mace, there’s little to find on Bear Mace and its debut album, Butchering the Colossus. Hell, I’m even acquainted with guitarist Crossbow Death and I still don’t know shit about the band. So, with our combined knowledge of Bear Mace (my one-fifth and your nothing), we push on in hopes of understanding these Chicagoan park rangers. Though we know very little about them, we do know two things: 1) Bear Mace likes death metal and 2) they’re good at it.
I know what you’re thinking: this dirty, little death metal band seems like another silly Ghoul gimmick. But, they’re not. Now that I said that, opener “Death of a Constellation” and “Cyclone of Shrapnel” have some Ghoulish qualities in their punchy riffs and vocals. But, that’s where the comparisons end. Instead, Bear Mace pulls most of their inspiration from the carcasses of old Death and Bolt Thrower records. “I Bleed For Vengeance” has some stellar Bolt Thrower chugs, while the vocals combine Karl Willets’ barking with the teeth-rattling lows of Nathan Explosion. Lord Devourer’s vocals are low and monotone but, I swear, his delivery is like a Panzer rolling over a city block of bones. There’s no denying it, his voice is one of my favorite parts of the album.
But, the guitars on Butchering the Colossus also kick some major ass. After opening with that Ghoulish riffage, “Death of a Constellation” settles down into a crawling Impaled riff, with vocal arrangements to match. It’s got the kind of sinistern vibe that makes the Doctor’s basement laboratory feel like a McDonald’s play pit. Only a couple tracks in and you pretty much know what to expect from the rest of the album. There are a variety of old-school rumblers and Bolt Thrower-like bulldozers, mid-paced lulls that stomp about like a pissed-off cyclops, and vocals that’ll reach through your headphones and punch you in the ear hole. Tracks like “I Bleed for Vengeance” and “Lord Devourer of the Dead” may seem old-fashioned, but they still remain relevant. They have the kind of death-metal chugs and neck-snapping riffs that crush you over and over again, leaving you broken on the pit floor.
“Cyclone of Shrapnel,” “Butchering the Colossus,” and “Wheel of Despair” go for something a little more fast-paced and thrashy. The title track, in particular, opens with some Slayer-like leads before unraveling a warm blanket of Vaderisms. “Wheel of Despair” discovers its inner Bolt Thrower before wandering into a mid-song Pantera groove. All of these tracks have some beefy bass and massive guitar tone and each song finds Devourer stationed high above mankind, hurling lightning bolts down at unsuspecting peons.
The most devastating numbers on the album, though, have to be “Leave Nothing Here Alive” and closer “Anguirus the Destroyer.” The former has the kind of balls and rhythm I wish my truck had as it rolled down the highway. “Leave Nothing Here Alive” stomps hard on the gas, following Devourer across waves of black-bear gutturals and wolverine rasps. The closer, though, is a death metal classic. The riffs, the guitar execution, the bass presence, and the Amon Amarth-meets-Dethklok chorus are individual stitches, cross-hatched to strengthen this mighty package. “Anguirus the Destroyer” is a goddamn beast and one I’ve had on repeat for some time now.
Butchering the Colossus is a solid slab of old-school death metal—acting both as a tribute to the good ole days, as well as an extension to the classics. It’s unashamed of its roots and unforgiving in its delivery. The guitars have variation without stumbling too far to the left or right, and the unique vocals make it memorable. The wheel’s not reinvented by any means and I’m sure that’s fine with Bear Mace because they do it so well. I mean, they even gave us a death metal record that is pleasing to the ears. So, do you ever worry about a bear charging down on you, hellbent on removing your heart from your chest? Well, let it get within a foot of where you stand and put some Bear Mace on its furry ass. Trust me, I’m a doctor. It’ll work.