The Bearer – Chained to a Tree Review

Protest songs have long defined punk rock, a genre steeped in rebellion. From the London Callings and American Idiots of the world, protest is a harbinger to change. Acting as mirrors that reflect absurdity or cruelty back at an establishment, we can expect to associate hardcore punk’s offshoot mathcore similarly, tracks like Botch‘s “Mondrian Was a Liar,” Converge‘s “Slave Driver,” and The Dillinger Escape Plan‘s “Panasonic Youth” all reflecting the casualties of capitalism. More modern iterations in Pupil Slicer‘s “Martyrs,” The Callous Daoboys‘ “What,” and Bone Cutter‘s “How to Force Feed Your Children And Friends All of Your Failed Ideas in 10 Decayed Steps” showcase a recent push toward inclusion and queerness, rejecting the toxic masculinity that has long defined extreme music. The Bearer offers a hardcore punk/mathcore fusion in debut full-length Chained to a Tree, protesting injustice. Is it a soundtrack for the riot? Or will you need ear muffs to block out the noise?

The Bearer reflects the turmoil in its hometown of Austin, Texas, lyrics protesting the affluent takeover of their city. The trio losing its practice spaces to Tesla showrooms and offices fuels its humanistic message, a reminder to value the people before they are trampled in the onslaught of capitalistic progress. Dabbling in mathcore, beatdown, and technical elements, Chained to a Tree is aflame with hardcore punk counterculture pulsing through its veins. The result, although largely defined by the sum of its influences, is an energetic, fiery hardcore album with many tantalizing faces.

The Bearer has constructed Chained to a Tree smartly, laying a straightforward and cutthroat hardcore foundation a la Gaza or VVOVNDS, then building experimentation atop it. Tracks like “No Defendable Position” and “Gleam” showcase the best of all The Bearer bears, featuring mammoth riffs, chaotic math passages, and ominous atmospherics atop a blistering hardcore punk attack with Colton Siegmund’s throat-shredding vocals. In tracks like “In the Sty,” “Axes,” and the title track, bassist Jeffrey Blum shines, pulsing with distorted bottom-end rumbles that maintain pulsing energy as well as add ominous depth, locked into the chaos of Siegmund’s corrosive percussion. Guitarist Michael Delaney utilizes a range of tricks and influences: the grooves of Coalesce (“Let It Burn”), the beatdown of End (“Peaceful Sleep”), the wonky effects of Deftones (“Gleam”), and the crusty rhythms of Discharge (“Jury of Oppressors”). Chained to a Tree balances its hardcore premise with variety strewn throughout, viciously denying any monotony, thanks furthermore to its tastefully brief track lengths (aside from “Holy Water,” no track exceeds four minutes). The mix is spearheaded by Andrew Hernandez, known for his work with Mammoth Grinder and This Will Destroy You, and is aptly huge, giving crushing weight to the riffs and bass, while letting its more scathing qualities soar atop. 

Chained to a Tree‘s tracks here have their setbacks, such as the overly repeated riffs of “Sympathy Pains,” the jarring spoken word and limp riffs of “Axes,” and the fact that there are some tracks more memorable than others (“Peaceful Sleep” is the better version of “Sympathy Pains,” “Jagged Lines” is better than “Let It Burn,” etc.). However, the issue that keeps The Bearer from truly soaring is their unapologetic mimicry of Converge and Botch, doing so in a hardcore punk style that plays close to the vest. Aside from “In the Sty” and “Holy Water,” there is little here that feels distinctly like The Bearer. While this is largely a scene issue, in that much of mathcore focuses on being the next Jane Doe or We Are the Romans, Chained to a Tree ultimately feels like a competent and fiery reiteration of them – a symptom of its worship.

That being said, “Holy Water” is a fantastic conclusion to a super fun and neck-snapping album. Brimming with tension and anger, never forgoing the beating heart beneath the jaggedness, The Bearer possesses more potential than Chained to a Tree capitalizes upon. It’s a protest album, a mathy and technical version of Black Flag‘s Damaged or Dead KennedysFresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables, both caustic and menacing in its own right. While it never strays far from its hardcore roots or the shadow of its mathcore idols, it’s an album worth hearing both sonically and lyrically, with enough variety to justify many spins. Chained to a Tree ultimately is a good album that calls for change, from a band more than capable of writing its own chapter in the storied history of mathcore.


Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 256 kbps mp3
LabelSilent Pendulum Records
Websitesthebearer.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/TheBearerBand
Releases Worldwide: July 1st, 2022

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