Friday, April 19 2024

Occasionally, you’re sent something to review. You listen intently and just stare at an empty white document, devoid of anything. Just lost. Wondering, ‘what just happened?’ Pacific Death is an instrumental solo project yielding 3 full albums thus far. ‘I Am Already Home,’ came in 2021 and can be basically summed up as Mr. Bungle, before Trey Spruance arrived at the studio. ‘Insults From Space,’ also from 2021 is Mr. Bungle before Mike Paton showed up, but after Trey Spruance arrived. And, ‘Nobody Will Find Out’ follows the same vein. It’s all very obscure, very well done, but the background music to a dinner party attended by JS Bach, Genghis Khan, Salvador Dali, David Lynch and Donatella Versace, where you’re served a 7-course ‘tasting menu’ of only the scents of meals prepared by Heston Blumenthal.  

_Rockbear_‘, Pacific Death’s latest single, is ridiculous.  Borderline genius. But utterly ridiculous. It’s what happens when someone with infinite talent has 15 minutes spare between writing obscure jazz/death metal fusion tracks. I should hate this, but I can’t it’s annoyingly upbeat, it wears you down with its positivity. To quote the composer himself, “_Rockbear_ is an instrumental progressive rock song meant to evoke visions of a guitar playing bear.” Being British, and naturally cynical, it’s easy to throw shade at this and dismiss it as the insane ramblings of a lunatic. Actually, it was harder than I expected, but that’s beside the point, if there is one; there’s a fine line between genius and madness and some people just choose to ignore the line, or, lay down and start doing the breast stroke along it, whilst wearing froggy wellies and a Deer Stalker and playing ‘Old Man River’ on an ocarina.

Pacific Death, solo artist, Swede, surrealist. Actually, underneath my playful verbosity there is genuine love for ‘_Rockbear_’. If you approach this from a purely guitar and production perspective, it’s an exercise in expert layering, tonality, technical proficiency and balance. 

The lead breaks are well constructed and come across as serving a definite purpose as opposed to directionless noodling on or around the pentatonic. The central hook is repeated throughout most of the piece, with variations upon acting as underlay for the first solo. We only break off from this after 1:42 with a heavier guitar backed by mirrored synth. This gives the piece an overall ternary structure, as the mid-section gives way to the original theme in varying guise, backed by some nice blues-based licks with an overdriven guitar sound. 

There’s a lot going on with the confines of an ABA structure; some nice clean/funky guitar holding things together until the piece comes out of the mid-section, some nice keyboard progressions when the distorted guitars come in. It smacks of an old platform game soundtrack and after a few listens you almost start to hear it in 8-bit. That aside, this is a very good piece from a very talented musician, for whom off-kilter is just another Tuesday.

Ultimately this doesn’t evoke images of bears playing guitar, to me. I mean, if you’ve ever been close to a bear, you’d know there’s no way they’d hit a pinch harmonic as sweetly as Pacific Death did at the end of the first solo, with paws the size of pasta bowls.  

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Large mammal breaks hibernation curfew in order to evoke images of avant-garde Swedes. The results are annoyingly good – check it out now!
well produced Bear friendly guitar fun


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About Author

Gareth Johnston

Gareth Johnston is a Lancashire based musician and producer who studied music at MMU. He is a former reviewer for 'Glitzine' and when not writing for 'The Indie Grid' can be found restoring old furniture whilst listening to obscure alt-rock. He has too many favourite bands to pick one and insists it's easier to pick a favourite child.

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