I'll admit that I have been enamored with iwrestledabearonce ever since I first saw them at SXSW a few years ago. As they blended electronic beats with complex metal riffs and vocals that slipped from death metal growls to ethereal croons at the drop of a hipster's trucker's hat, they kept you guessing. And their sound, which exploded with metallic brutality and grindcore beats at one moment and slipped into sheer electronic goofiness the next, was always heavy without taking itself too seriously, and never afraid to simply be fun.
I championed this band for their versatility and proudly named myself as a fan, for which IWABO guitarist Steven Bradley even once told me meant that I had no taste in music, although he appreciated it.
Earlier this year, the band announced that they were repackaging themselves as a black metal band, with a new logo and look to match. When Bradley explained the as "We were sick of getting lumped in with 'scene' and 'whatever-core' bands, so we decided to embrace our roots and just go straight black metal on the new album. I'd say 90% of the new record is straight-up black metal, so we had to change our image to match...Because of course that's just as important, if not more so, than the music," I expected that it was somewhat tongue in cheek, and that the band wasn't truly dropping what made them unique and interesting, although I was a bit apprehensive.
I didn't need to be. Their new release Ruining It For Everybody is a further exploration into the high heavy weirdness that has made IWABO into the musical powerhouse they are.
Heavy, complex grindcore guitars merge into electronic beats in a method that defies any formula, and each song carries its own character. When it's the brutal intensity of the grindcore sound of tracks "It is Bro, Isn't it?" and "Stay to the Right," the band excels as musicians, never sacrificing heaviness for complexity, and when they slip into pure ethereal beauty and trip-hop beats, like with "This Head Music Makes My Eyes Rain." At times it's like Evanescence, if anyone in Evanescence had the ability to throw a punch or even do anything that looked remotely tough. Ever.
And at the forefront of it all, as always, is vocalist Krysta Cameron, who is arguably one of the most versatile and talented vocalists in music today, with the ability to shift from guttural growl that barely sound human, let alone feminine, to delicate yet powerful "Bjorkish" vocals that sound nearly celestial. Put her versatile vocals on the front of a band that's just as versatile and also unafraid to take risks or descend into silliness, and you have a recipe for the bizarre.
And the bizarre also abounds, but never unnecessarily so. "Deodorant Can't Fix Ugly" may have a gospel choir, "Break It Down Camacho" may have a distorted voicemail from Cameron's grandmother, and "You Know That Ain't Them Dogs' Real Voices" may have... whatever that is, but not once do you go "come on, you're just doing that to be weird." It fits.
And while all the tracks on this album are good, and not at all formulaic, if I were to pick one track to listen to that sums up everything an IWABO song is, it would be "Karate Nipples." Funny title? Check. Metal riffs? Check. Industrial beats that would sound just as at home on an old Skinny Puppy record? Check. And some disco thrown in for fun. We got it.
So dig into Ruining It For Everybody and just be ready to be surprised. It's unpredictable and fun, heavy and subtle. I think the only thing it isn't is sloppy.
Release Date, July 26, 2011