Written by: Valkyrjiaa
Bridear – Aegis of Athena
> Heavy Metal
> Released May 13
> Avex Trax
May saw no shortage of new releases, with some of the most epic albums to date this year being dropped on our doorstep. From the gradual release of the pandemic’s tight grip came a wave of creativity that had long been awaiting its moment to shine.
Being a long-time anime, manga, and J-Rock fan I was ecstatic to get my hands on the new release from Bridear titled Aegis of Athena that dropped on May 13th, 2022.
Aegis of Athena is a heart-pounding album of 11 tracks that mix progressive elements with the foundations of heavy metal, plus a touch of J-Rock influence.
Kimi describes the album as “an ambitious balance of what inspires us – the new wave of British Heavy Metal and traditional Hard Rock bands with strong melodies,” while bassist Haru claims, “the arrangements and song-writing are really powerful. It will be amazing to play these songs live.” Which they were able to do on their short but tremendous “Decide to Survive” European Tour that ended September 19th, 2022.
Kicking off the album is the enigmatic track titled “Side of a Bullet” that harnesses traditional Japanese instrumentals like the Koto to bring their fairy-tale of the goddess Athena to life. Creating a vivid image of Athena’s protective prowess over a village plagued by monsters, the band uses their eerie melody and fantastic storytelling to caress us with the blessing of Athena’s wisdom and strength, carrying us to a world where history once more begins to repeat.
The gentle riffs embrace the traditional intro, building into a sorrowful vocal performance that tugs at our heart strings much like any metal ballad would. Though it begins slowly, it quickly picks up, with balanced keys ringing in a battle of torrential drumming and signature riffs that captivate. It holds all the elements of an Anime-style opening track both with its story-driven content and sound that made it an instant add to my playlist.
“Preference” continues the pace but, turns it up a notch with deep bass lines and rugged shredding. The chorus provides a simple mantra that’s delivered effortlessly in its desire to pull you in and make you sing-along: “Do what you want. Live the way you want. Don’t worry about anything.” It’s both catchy and upbeat, while still having a solid headbanging tagline that keeps you dancing.
The third track, “Greed” digs deeper, with more experimental progression in its roots from the dragging bass to bumping verses and harmonies. Once the build-up is created, we see the classic J-rock hooks that get you swaying along, using lines like “Greed is a virtue, don’t you think so?” as a cute but suspicious line to get listeners to take a deep dive lyrically. The entire track plays out like a chart-topping J-rock beat, as it belongs, while stepping out of the boundaries with some heavier riffs and quickened drums to keep that progressive feel.
“Determination” dropped in like wildfire with a debut music video featuring stark black and whites, allowing is to take in the band’s full performance. Gradually colour is added, building from individual to backdrop and picks up along with the tune. Coming in almost immediately, its an easy repeat listen that includes some stunning solos, and lyrics that get stuck in your heart right away.
“I have been told to give up. My heart is falling apart. Yet I decided to survive it even if I get caught under fire,” cranks out the inspiration, and without a doubt is the true determination this song gets its title from.
The single release, “Ray of Chaos” let’s a heavy bass line run through as the melody gradually grows, dropping with the chorus and crafting a unique yet instantly likable beat. It’s a deeply progressive track, utilizing a melody that doesn’t drive too hard with ascending riffs or descending drops to keep itself steady and powerful, waiting ’til its final moments to create some chaos through progressive experimentation and skill.
The experimentation continues in the oddly titled track “The Bathtub” that’s executed in an entire change of pace, with Bridear dropping into their traditional language of Japanese to tell its tale. With some tremendous harsh vocals and wild riffs being brought in, this track is complimented by a speedy drum track and quips of English like “Bathtub hides my guilty, sinking,” to play on listeners’ curiosity and undoubtedly intensive listening. One of the most unique tracks on the album, this song twists J-rock elements until they’re greeted by the finesse of heavy metal drums and prog-like depth.
Tracks like “Lodestar” continue the progressive feel, mixing in the J-rock as the performance continues in Japanese; the beat is catchy, once again giving that striking familiarity of an anime intro before bludgeoning us with unyielding weight. A similar tone follows up in “Past in Emerald”, building off the J-rock hooks and sound while hammering us with heavy metal-based drums that seem relentless in their fury.
“Brave New World Revisited” once more offers a gentle touch; caressing us with acoustic-style strings before bringing Painkiller riffs in and knocking it out of the park. A barrage of arrows rains down in rapid drums and eat-splitting guitars that had me picking my jaw up off the floor. At seven and a half minutes in length, this track is an absolute adventure both instrumentally and vocally. We see more harsh vocals brought in, and a greater display of string-slinging strength as we undertake this journey together. The lingering hunger of divinity in the speedy pace is quickly satiated by a mid-section orchestra of wild solos and vicious kicks that blow your mind. The subsequent piano keys give a ghostly harmony to the past intensity as if to trick our minds into believing the unending battle is finally coming to a close. Naturally, this is not the case as we are once again ignited by Bridear’s fury in their musical capabilities, winding out a firefight with the echoing toll of a dread-bearing bell.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Bridear bring an array of influences with their new album Aegis of Athena. From language switches to musical mixtures that twist the mind and ear, this album is a palette blender with something for everyone. From power-metal like vibes in “Road” to progressive “Brave New World Revisited” and the J-rock banger “Determination”, there is no denial in the creative freedom that is fully realized and expressed by the band, and the infectious tracks that span this album from end to end.