Bear Arms - New Skin
Record Label: Struggletown Records
Release Date: June 19, 2012
New Skin feels longer than a four-track EP normally would, but in a good way. "Cities" opens the album with a fast and aggressive guitar riff that rises quickly into the full band attacking with the type of grueling pace that many bands acquire, but few learn to master. The simple-sounding trick of pacing and timing is one that Bear Arms has managed to obtain so that New Skin doesn't become overbearing in its aggression--pun intended.
None of the tracks are exactly slow, but they each have their slower parts to help with the pacing and sometimes as a buildup to the next chorus. Each song flows nicely into the next, with no instances of gratuitous silences. As one of my personal highlights "The Apple and the Tree" is interesting from the first listen on. The main song is much lengthier than many bands would've made it. It doesn't become tired or boring, though; it's more like the kind of carrying out that would make it a favorite track at a live show. The palm muted guitars are emphatic and electrifying towards the end, eventually slowing the tempo to a crawl, and finally stopping.
The bonus track at the end of "The Apple and the Tree" carries the entire track almost to the ten minute mark, and it leaves a good taste in my mouth; as a soft, somber piece, it's a very nice stopping point--kind of refreshing, like a cool electrolyte drink after a 1k sprint.
You'll notice that the only area I have given New Skin a particularly low score on is creativity. I didn't exactly want to give this score, because of how much I'm enjoying the music, but felt an obligation to do so; because, as much fun as it is, the influence from other similar bands was obvious and slightly distracting at some points during my initial listen. This awareness went away half-way through my second spin, but I felt it important enough to mention and to influence the rating some.
Even with the similarities to other bands, Bear Arms is by no means a clone. Their originality is the kind that will grow on you and has the potential to become very dynamic in the future. As long as they keep changing the pace up, their style will help them avoid the stagnant pit of hardcore that so many bands fall into.
I hope that there's a full-length record planned soon, because this EP could give them the necessary momentum to show what they're really worth--a nice, lengthy record deal with a major label.