Berried Alive is the one-man brainchild of Charles Caswell, former guitarist of metalcore band, Reflections. Whilst the project’s aesthetic is characterised by darkly cartoonish imagery, on a musical level it’s deadly serious with a sound built upon chugging, djenty riffs, glitchy and often discordant synth lines and downbeat, nihilistic lyricism.
Since the project’s inception, Caswell has managed to pop out several albums already throughout his career, some with instrumental accompaniments, and now he has another full-length to offer, ‘Bearies Alive’.
Opening track ‘Pun Of You Left’ (the first in a series of so-bad-they’re-good song titles that including ‘Slaughtermelon’ and ‘Fruitality’) contains all of the aforementioned elements in spades. The vocals are initially just as punishing as the rhythm section, eschewing melody entirely to work alongside the guitars and drums to deliver sonic blunt force trauma before transitioning into a mesmerising clean monotone for the hooks.
It’s a solid formula, but one that is sorely overused on the first half of the record. The first five tracks follow in more or less the same mould and can be a little bit of a slog to get through, which is unfortunate considering the second half is both sonically diverse and musically superior.
‘Armed Strobbery’ is an absolute rager of a track, thanks in no small part to the excellent lead guitar work. Caswell has a great track record in this department, and one can’t help but feel that it’s criminally underused throughout this album. Guitar solos and lead melodies appear on only a handful of songs, but when they do they show up in style and account for most of the stand-out moments.
‘Bluebeary’ is the first of a handful of slower, synth based cuts where the formerly frantic electronic elements give way to more expansive soundscapes. The hypnotic clean vocals are employed well here, drawing you into the world of the track. The hard stomp of ‘Pear Pressure’ is all the more effective when it follows on from a more sedate track; the album would certainly flow better if there were a few more instances of breathing space during the opening salvo of heavy hitters.
‘Berry Blast’ sends us off on a high, with the instrumentation during its high-intensity crescendo being arguably the highlight of the whole album – Caswell‘s irreverent “Thanks for listening” message at the end is a nice touch that shows that, despite the melancholy nature of many of the songs, he doesn’t take himself too seriously.
‘Bearies Alive’ will doubtlessly be enjoyed by fans of crushingly heavy music with electronic elements. There’s more than enough quality here to intrigue, but, on account of some uneven pacing and a long runtime, this just falls short of greatness.