Black Bear Kiss

Shropshire band, Black Bear Kiss, featuring an ex-bassist of Hertfordshire band, The Vaulted Skies, release their self-titled debut album this Friday. We thought we would give it a listen and experience a slice of the Shropshire scene.

The band formed in 2016, have been making waves across Shropshire and were recently voted the ‘Best Band’ at the Shropshire Music Awards. The record has been in the making for several years and reflects a difficult few years for the band, following the sudden death of their guitarist Rob Jones. After a break, the band made the difficult decision to continue as a four piece. With the debut album ready for release, it seems the hard work and overcoming tragic emotional lows is finally paying off.

The album opens with the meaty guitar riff of ‘Chasing All I Know’. The songs sets the scene for the rest of the album. Not afraid to use heavy catchy riffs, you can hear influences of bands like Royal Blood and Band Of Skulls. I can also hear why Shropshire audiences love them. I can imagine these songs play well live. Reflecting on how the pressures of life can cause to us to lose touch of ourselves. The song builds up the pressure until the guitar is screaming in the background as Chris Leech, the lead singer, sings ‘I am chasing all I know’.

Again the big riffs are out for ‘Begin Again’, a song about how tied we are to social media, searching for likes and validation of the image we present online. Maybe ironically, it has a crowd friendly chorus that will get any audience jumping around and who surely are going to be hitting ‘like’ on Facebook when they get home.

My favourite song on the album, ‘Reach Up Higher’, a BBC Introducing ‘Record of the Week’, is extremely catchy with its repeating chorus and fast tempo. Perfect for the band’s apparent incendiary live performances. Maybe it is thematically a bit close to ‘Begin Again’, as it also looks at the influence people have on others through the media, and how they can shape our perceptions of the world and lead us to strive for the wrong things. But it hard to avoid how maybe some of the wrong people are manipulating us through the media and social media.

Bringing the tempo down and pushing the guitars and drums to the back. On ‘Hole In The Sky’, Chris expresses an emotion we have all felt at times, especially over the last few years. The difficulty of understanding the world when the world around is falling apart and we doing our best not to fall apart too. The band resit the temptation of bringing the guitars back to the fore and instead leave Chris to his reflection.

Where the album is strongest is where it plays around with these big riffs. But you can hear other influences on this album. ‘Back to You’ wears its Red Hot Chilli Pepper’s influences on its sleeves. For me it sits incongruously amongst the rest of the album, if like me, you got bored of the Chilli Pepper sound after one album. However, that is the only week point. The rest of the album is good.

Closing the album is a ‘lighter song’. ‘The First Time’ has that slow, ‘everyone link shoulders and sing together’ tempo. Usually I am not a fan of this type of song. But the song, written about Rob, is both reflective and joyous, with Chris reflecting, ‘I wish for one more moment’. I think all of us know that feeling. Given the tragic loss, this heartwarming song is the perfect way to close the album and a fine way to remember a friend.

Overall, Black Bear Kiss is an enjoyable slice of indie rock. I’m trying to wrack my brain if we have any similar bands in Hertfordshire. But the Royal Blood vibe didn’t really take off here. I can’t remember hearing a Hertfordshire band with a similar sound. Many Hertfordshire bands seem to be influenced by skater-type rock of the early 2000s or Slaves-type pop punk. I am sure if they ever make the trip down to Hertfordshire they would go down well at The Horn.

Black Bear Kiss’s debut album is available from 3rd March.
Digital version:
CD and Merch: