BEAR: Time of Wreckoning
The Belgian metallers talk about how their India debut came about entirely through a chance social media encounter
It helps being on the ball on social media, as Antwerp-based metal band BEAR learned a few months ago. They found their page was tagged and mentioned in a comment by Bengaluru-based blogger and gig series Unscene’s co-founder Ramakrishnan Krishnan. Bassist Dries Verhaert says over Skype, “I noticed that and I said, ‘Hey dude, if you’re up for a tour, if you can book us anything, we’d be glad to come over and play India for sure.’ He contacted us back and after mailing for a few weeks, things got more concrete, and half a year later, we’re about to take a plane to India.”
Verhaert, guitarist James Falck and vocalist Maarten Albrechts are still incredulous that a band can get an India tour solely on the basis of showing interest. It perhaps shows just how driven and unconventional Ramakrishnan (along with co-founder Abijith Rao, vocalist for metal band Escher’s Knot and sound engineer) has been with his year-long Unscene gig series in Bengaluru, which wrapped up its run in November. Krishnan says over email, “I had heard Bear’s latest album III (pronounced ‘slash slash slash’) and their earlier ones, Noumenon and Doradus. I love the mad energy that’s on those albums, which I think would be fantastic seen live. And their live videos lend credence to that belief.”
Between April 5th and 14th, Unscene takes BEAR on tour to Bengaluru, Mumbai, New Delhi, Hyderabad and Ahmedabad, tying up with local promoters in each city. For a band that’s come together in 2010 and had three albums to their name, BEAR may have gained global visibility after signing to Basick Records (the modern metal and rock-leaning label that once launched India’s very own prog band, Skyharbor), but they do admit they still play to low numbers on tour stops and often have to fight hard to book shows. Verhaert says, “If I think back to June last year, we played Graspop in Belgium, the major metal festival. We had an audience of about 5,000 people and then two weeks after we went on the tour in the U.K. and played U.K. Tech Fest, where there were a few hundred people and afterwards, we had smaller shows that had literally five to 10 people. It really differs a lot.”
While they’re best known to have a wrecking-ball intensity that recalls metal and hardcore in the vein of Converge or Norma Jean, BEAR have been diversifying on III, which released last year. Falck says the music is about “the expression of the aggression and energy” and that explains why they bring their A-game to a live show, the dissonant, brutal edges punctuating chaotic rhythms. Verhaert says, “Some people don’t like us on the record, but when they see us live, they’re like, ‘Oh my god, this was so insane.’”
Although still not a full-time band, BEAR do seem hopeful for the way ahead. Albrechts says, “I think BEAR is also in some ways a kind of therapy, catharsis for everyone. I think we really would go insane if we didn’t have this band. It’s an outlet to try to keep sane in everyday life.”
Get tickets for BEAR’s tour here.
This article appeared in the March 2018 issue of Rolling Stone India.