What the hell do they put in the water in Finland? You can keep your fluoride additives Cameron – we need some of what they’ve got!! How do they instinctively know how to do Metal…and do it so well? Maybe it’s a country with a lack of Simon Cowell influence (how on earth can Metal be accused of having Satanic links when there he sits on a Saturday night on his throne of tacky lighting, in front of baying disciples with his stupid fake hair and ridiculous trousers, creating minions before the eyes of gullible sheep???!!! Where was I…oh yes…Finland…). Shear are a Metal band with a female singer, native to Finland…so the genre options are seemingly endless! This time it is definitely full-on Metal. No Gothic/Symphonic whimsy for Shear. In fact their sound on the whole seems to be an amalgamation of Sinergy’s technicality and power, Lullacry’s speed and energy and All Ends’ melody and use of a catchy hook (two of the three are Finnish I notice, All Ends are Swedish…so close…). I’m sure the comparison is not intentional – and I’d still be pretty impressed if it was, but for me these three seem to crop up all over the album.
This is only meant as a guideline for the purpose of this review of course, as Shear definitely have their own sound, but take ‘Whispers That Follow’ for example – the intro guitar-lines, riffs and drums are very Sinergy, the verse and bridge reminds me of All Ends, and the chorus is reminiscent of Lullacry. Sometimes it’s in a different order but basically if you like any of those three band’s styles, then Shear have the chops and will certainly be worth your attention. OK, vocalist Alexa Leroux has the talent and dexterity to pull off all three vocal styles (and more), which helps (though she’s never a carbon copy of any other singer – she has too much power, presence and individuality for that) – she really is a tour-de-force, able to turn her talents to whatever the song demands. And sometimes it demands to be sung over shredding Alexi Laiho style guitar (there’s some great guitar-work throughout “Katharsis”), power/speed rhythms, the occasional acoustic piece or maybe slightly more keyboard-led passages. Usually in the same song…sometimes all at the same time!
There’s no weak songs to be found on “Katharsis” – there’s really only just one ballad…which is far too powerful to be labelled as such – it’s just slightly less full-on Metal as the rest of the album. And this makes it impossible (and slightly unfair) to single out individual tracks for praise or analysis. Each one has passion, intensity, hooks and power. But I really, really like ‘Hollow Black & Cold’. It has all the elements previously mentioned but also an extra ingredient I couldn’t quite place, until I realized if you stripped the chorus of guitar and real drums (basically it’s soul…), it would be a sure-fire Ibiza club hit! This is no detriment – It just has that uplifting, catchy, shout-along quality that the techno crowd drink in so easily – yet Shear spit it out, beat you around the face with it, ram it down your throat and make it cool! I bet this song would chart in Finland and all over Europe – get a clip done quick guys! ‘Turmoil’ is another excellent track full of double-kick splendour and striking guitar work (not to mention a fantastically memorable chorus) and a great example of the band at it’s best if anyone has the tendency to just download one or two tracks – I guarantee the rest of the album will follow!
And that’s really the beauty of Shear. They defy a genre label – they are METAL – fast, loud and hard. They could be interpreted as a cross between Sinergy, Lullacry and All Ends, but equally different people will find other comparisons, and really, Shear are just themselves…and bloody good at it too! And thus “Shear” very simply becomes a prefix for Shear Metal, Shear Power and Shear Force. Hell Yeah!
(8/10 Andy Barker)