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Review: Iwrestledabearonce – Hail Mary

Iwrestledabearonce have made a name for themselves by playing their own special brand of what-the-fuck-evercore. Always the fans of quick shifts in mood dictated by borderline schizophrenic tempo changes, the band has an admirable attitude about playing their brand of relatively experimental metalcore. Instead of stepping into a popular template, IWABO plays as they wish, and you are welcome to come along if you like, though make no mistake; they don’t need you. This band knows their talent, and you would be hard pressed to find a more confident band, top to bottom.

Hail Mary was released earlier this year, and is the second full length to have badass Courtney LaPlante at the front. Her screams, though mostly unintelligible, are on point. She has great range, and a curiously unique clean singing voice. She oozes confidence, and with this release has stepped out from behind what little shadow former frontwoman Krysta Cameron still cast. LaPlante, at this point, stands on her own, and should be criticized on her own damn merits. The comparison plagued analysis of Late for Nothing, which is a great album in and of itself, and I don’t want that comparison to cloud this analysis of Hail Mary.

Hail Mary and Late for Nothing are two entirely distinct albums. A valid criticism of Late for Nothing was that, in comparison to previous IWABO releases, it was incredibly predictable. For a band that always tended to push boundaries, it felt too safe. LaPlante’s voice was great, and they really let her show her clean singing chops, but it was textbook metalcore. Well executed no doubt, but safe, bread and butter metalcore nonetheless.

This new releases captures the old IWABO spirit of unpredictability, frantic grindcore-esque riffing, and bitchslap tempo changes. They pull back the cleans, and hit the Danza-inspired schizocore as hard as possible. What makes the album special however, is how catchy it manages to be, start-to-finish. The album has its fair share of groove and soft swooning from LaPlante, but it never loses its overall intensity.

Songs like “Gift of Death,” “Remain Calm,” and “Curse the Spot” convey the sound the album in general strives for. They each have really grindy riffing, sounding almost panicked. These songs really show LaPlante’s screaming range, and the creativity of the band as a whole. The breakdown at the end of “Remain Calm” is a must listen, mostly because it encapsulates the unpredictability factor perfectly. It comes from seemingly nowhere, and crushes. The song “Erase it All” has some catchy groove with a nice guest spot from Suicide Silence frontman Eddie Hermida. This beginning stretch of the album is really nice, and cleans are used sparingly.

“Green Eyes” has to get a distinct mention. It is one of the more groove and bounce leaning tracks, and has a really unique ambiance. The screams are angry, and serve as a nice lead into the instrumental flourish that accompanies the transition into the beautiful cleans. The lyrics are a treat as well: “If you get down to the roots and see that their swollen with poison, would you still love them?” This is probably the first easily deciphered lyric on the album, and it is wonderful. This song showcases the best IWABO quality in my opinion; the very rare ability to pull the listener in a few different directions within one song. As soon as she finishes singing, the entire band goes back into the grindy, muddy chaos, and it sounds perfect honestly.

IWABO was rightfully criticized for over-using clean choruses on the previous album. On Hail Mary, they seem to have learned the lesson, and clean singing is not a main feature on the album. It is used as a wonderful point of emphasis in certain songs and at certain points of the album. The two part “Doomed to Fail” track is a great example. The song is pretty repetitive, especially during pt. 1. The transition to cleans, “It’s too soon…to pull the trigger…” redeems the whole song. It fits, it sticks in the memory, the accompanying guitar solo is well done as it the song moves to pt. 2. It is a wholly clean song, as expected. It comes at the tail end of the chaotic mess of music that was the first half of the album. It is a great, slow burning, slow building ear cleanser, and I endorse it.

“Doomed to Fail” is enhanced as whole by the track that follows, “Killed to Death.” The screams are vile, in the best possible way. The beautiful house that was just built in “Doomed to Fail pt. 2” is burnt to the fucking ground. It bangs harder than most other tracks on the album, and is definite standout, and is over before you even really realize what just happened. The band does not let up as they move into another great song, “Trips.” It bounces, features a well done section of cleans, and is a cerebral song.

The album proves it has staying power towards the end of the album. “Man of Virtue,” “Carbon Copy” don’t offer a whole lot, but they are good songs on their own merit. “Wade in the Water” is an aggressive track that tugs in all the right directions. The riffing is fun and light hearted, it has a nice groove, but the drums are absolutely pummeling. “We All Float Down Here” is a great song as well, and it the musical creativity of the band is on full display. IWABO doesn’t so much play things you haven’t heard before, but assembles familiar pieces that smack you in ways you didn’t see coming. “Your God is Too Small” is a big, borderline anthemic track that is also super catchy. The song is just as heavy, the screams are just as intense, the guitars grind just as hard as any other song, but it manages to have its own unique vibe, and it stuck in my memory.

Hail Mary is just fantastic. It is IWABO’s most mature, clever release. It compensates for the shortcomings of Late for Nothing, and manages to stand out. The one thing that can never be said of IWABO is they’ve released the same thing twice, and it is a testament to their talent. Haily Mary is quite the ride, and despite the length, does not feel like a chore. This is an impressive album, that has a cohesive sound, that does not get too repetitive. IWABO deserves a tip of the cap for their talent, their confidence, and their courage, in creating a release that will capture many new fans, renewed the faith of old fans, and may even reel back in those who wrote them off.

You can purchase Hail Mary on iTunes and just about every online or offline music outlet.

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