Back when they originally broke onto the scene in 2007, a time when MySpace was still the first point of call to find out more about a new band, outlandish “avant-garde” metal troupe iwrestledabearonce were very much the newly inducted class clowns. Though the talent behind each member’s respective instrument was unquestionable, very little else was taken too seriously; from the joke-y and/or pop culture reference song titles to the completely random samples and sound inserts, IWABO were nothing short of absolute goofballs.
Fast-forward to 2015 and the release of album number four, ‘Hail Mary’, the band’s second with almost no longer fresh faced vocalist Courtney LaPlante, who joined the band during the creation of 2013’s half-baked ‘Late For Nothing’. Indeed, LaPlante had some worthy shoes to fill after original front woman Krysta Cameron handed the microphone over. It seemed from ‘Late For Nothing’ that much of the jokester aspect in their music went along with Cameron, but with it so did the ability to keep us entertained, and questioning whether the comedy side was the only reason to pay attention to the outfit.
Come forth does ‘Hail Mary’, and pummels us down with not only their heaviest release to date, but also their most cohesive and, by extension, their most impressive too. All the while, we’re still without the prankster IWABO from the days of yore. LaPlante delivers a performance that stands head and shoulders above what we saw on the band’s last album, sticking mainly to psychotic screams and formidable roars, and the rare clean on perhaps four or five tracks, not including the melodic ballad of ‘Doomed To Fall, Pt. 2’.
Though LaPlante is indeed a notable mention throughout ‘Hail Mary’, the musicianship is on top form too. Keeping things fresh and away from being repetitive and stale isn’t all that easy within metalcore/deathcore nowadays, yet axe-men Steven Bradley and Mike Stringer steer clear of ‘brutal’ breakdowns and opt more for dizzying leads and sporadic fretboard workouts. The rhythm section from Mike Martin and Mikey Montgomery keeps the locomotive solid and maintained too, with the double-bass of the kick drums definitely keeping our heads a-banging away with it, even if half the time we’re not too sure what time signature is going to crop up next.
From the haunting opener ‘Gift Of Death’, the ribcage rattling ‘Erase It All’, the soaring eardrum rest of ‘Doomed To Fall, Pt. 2’, or the chorus hook of curtain closer ‘Your God Is Too Small’, it’s taken us until album four to see the serious IWABO. If it sounds this good, it should’ve been with us much sooner and, maybe now, we’re going to see these soar the ranks and stand among their more established peers. Forget about that bitch Mary, let’s all hail iwrestledabearonce.
Written by Zach Redrup (@zachredrup)