Hunnypot Does...
Powered by CircleSquareLA


Written by 

I just had my senses rocked by the immersive audio/visual assault that was Bear McCreary’s Singularity one-off show at the Fonda Theater in Hollywood. I am reeling, trying to explain what I just saw, heard, and felt. Completely blown away is a good way to start, but let’s begin with the basics. Metal-heads might not know the name Bear McCreary, so here’s a brief introduction. Bear McCreary, a two-time GRAMMY® Award-nominated, Emmy and BAFTA Award-winning composer, is renowned for his innovative and influential scores. Initially mentored by legendary composer Elmer Bernstein, McCreary gained prominence with the 2004 series Battlestar Galactica. His accolades include an Emmy for the Da Vinci’s Demons theme and multiple awards from the International Film Music Critics Association. McCreary's notable works span across TV, film, and video games, featuring scores for The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power, Outlander, The Walking Dead, and God of War. Collaborating with diverse artists such as Hozier and Fiona Apple, he has also composed for prestigious orchestras and ensembles, with performances conducted by Maestro Gustavo Dudamel at the Hollywood Bowl. So yes, a symphonic composer has penned the most visceral album of the year.

Adding to the challenge of creating his first symphonic, thrashing, operatic metal album, McCreary paired it with its own graphic novel made with Mat Groom of Marvel fame. This audio-visual sensation takes world-building to a whole new level. You might think that for a first outing, McCreary would ease into it. Well, he didn’t. Singularity is a double disk with 25 tracks that vary from thrashing metal to hip hop, spoken word, and operatic symphony. It shouldn’t work, having that mixture flow one into another, but it is so deftly crafted that after ten listens, I am still delving deeper. McCreary has been around the music world for years and clearly made some great connections, pulling every favor in the book to get the lineup of guest performers featured here. The lead track hits hard out of the gate. “The Incinerator” features Serj Tankian (System of a Down) wailing with his signature vocal tone, with thundering rhythm from Dethklok’s Gene Hoglan on drums and Bryan Beller on bass. Hoglan joined McCreary for the live performance as well. The visuals and tone of the live show had a vibe similar to Dethklok and their Metalocalypse. Esjay Jones takes the vocals on “Event at the Horizon,” growling and raging, taking the energy level up to maximum. Bear McCreary’s brother takes over on vocals for my favorite track of the album, “Redshift,” which has a driving riff by Omer Ben-Zvi and a great spiraling chorus that elevates the pace in a more progressive metal vibe. Much of the album feels like an edgy version of Avantasia, a band with a massive fan base around the world. “Type III” features Canadian-American singer Rufus Wainwright, who brings a more operatic tone to the piece, slowing the pace but adding a soaring quality.

Right as I’m reaching for the graphic novel, actor Lee Pace launches into his spoken word “Blue Eyes,” talking about pain and death, and I really want to read the book and figure out what all of this means. “Antikythera Mechanism” features Raya Yarbrough, whose soulful voice is well-known to fans of the TV series Outlander, where she sings the theme song. The tone is again more operatic, making you feel like you’ve left the metal world behind, but rest assured, that is not the case. “The Automaton’s Heart” comes crushing in with McCreary back on vocals in a more electric grunge feeling track. Each track is unique but flows seamlessly. Asdru Sierra from the multi-Grammy award-winning, multi-cultural, multi-genre band Ozomatli takes over on vocals, and yes, Mongolian throat singing for “Industrial Revolution.” Asdru was one of the guest vocalists who joined McCreary on stage for a mind-blowing performance of this track. “Tatarigami” features guitar work by Scott Ian (Anthrax, Mr. Bungle), and his presence is instantly felt. Brendan McCreary really hits his stride with this raging track. “Exiles” kicks off with Scottish Gaelic vocalist Griogair rapping in English and Gaelic, playing the bagpipes with a powerful anthem vibe. Yes, we have moved into Gaelic rapping and bagpipes, and I promise you, it works. Bear McCreary has pulled every brush out of his quiver and wields them so deftly as an artist that it defies words. You just have to listen to it. Oh, wait, but there is more. “Midnight Sun” does the impossible. It’s a solid riff-driven anthem featuring a chorus backed with a hurdy-gurdy and an accordion. Yes, he went there. And it completely works. One of the catchiest tunes on the album, it has you chanting along after the first listen.

Disk 2 kicks off with another spoken word piece, “Red Eyes,” featuring Ryan Hurst, which sounds like a trailer intro to the movie you really want to see and makes me want to read the graphic novel even more. “Last Stop” features Brendan McCreary on vocals again, taking the screeching to a vicious level, and again we are in thrash land. Omar Ben-Zvi’s guitar solo is a standout, and given the company of guitarists on the album, that’s impressive. Meshuggah’s Jens Kidman takes over the harsh guttural screaming on “Roko’s Basilisk,” which has more of a driving Swedish Metal sound, with exceptional rhythm work by Hoglan and Beller. It’s one of the heavier and more solid songs on the album. The mosh pits will love it. “First Day Out” drives back into the rap world with Mega Ran providing the vocals in a track that feels like a metal version of an Atmosphere tune. McCreary works in some solid programming, blended with Soundgarden’s Kim Thayil’s great guitar work. “Rage Child” hits hard with a phenomenal bass riff by John Avila from Oingo Boingo and a raging guitar solo by Nili Brosh, with Brendan continuing his solid work on rich guttural vocals. “Syzygy” features John Avila paired with fellow Oingo Boingo bandmate guitarist Warren Fitzgerald. Avila showcases amazing bass work on this track, and Brendan tones down the rage, delivering a great performance with driving melodies.

If the massive lineup thus far wasn’t impressive enough, Bear McCreary digs deep for the last half of the album. “Escape from the Machines” is an instrumental masterclass in guitar work from some of the best in the industry. Slash, Joe Satriani, John Avila, and Bryan Beller all duel for supremacy in an epic four-minute battle of the axes. Simply epic. “Rallying Cry,” featuring sublime vocals by Eivør in Faroese, takes the tone in a whole other direction, and yes, it still works. We went from Celtic rapping to Slash to Faroese, and the thread is still tightly wound around the synergy of all these elements. It’s tight; it’s so tight that it’s time to head to Iceland with Sigurjón Kjartansson providing the vocals for the operatic “Last of the Old Gods.” This screams to be on a film soundtrack with its powerful vocals and the unique use of Erik Rydvall’s nyckelharpa. Did I say McCreary used EVERY tool in his quiver? Yes, a nyckelharpa on a metal album. If you’re starting to want more metal, no worries. Slipknot’s Corey Taylor thrashes onto the scene in “Leviathan” with the help of Dethklok’s creator/guitarist Brendon Small to quench your metal thirst. A great driving track that is classic thrashing metal. “Yellow Eyes” features the wonderful spoken word by Zimbabwean-American actress Danai Gurira, best known as Michonne on The Walking Dead. Blue Eyes, Red Eyes, Yellow Eyes… and I still need to read the damn graphic novel, and now I really want to. The penultimate track, “The End of Tomorrow,” brings Slash back into the mix and is one of the catchier tunes on the disk, with a solid driving mid-2000s metal sound, great melodic vocals, and easily the best guitar riff on the album. Slash is on fire, and so is his guitar. “Tears for the Dead Life” wraps up the album with the dark forboding tone of Morgan Sorne, who mixes his soulful range with a deep bass vocal that rocks your soul. With one arrow left in his quiver, Bear McCreary pulls out a great one with Blue Öyster Cult’s Buck Dharma providing the guitar solo for the final track. McCreary famously did a new version of BÖC’s “Godzilla” for the soundtrack of the film Godzilla: King of the Monsters.

If all of this has you confused, I get it. It doesn’t make sense, and then you click play on your handy-dandy audio device, and it will. Trust me, it’s the album of the year. The live performance was nothing short of awe-inspiring. The range of talent on stage mixed with the visual and auditory assault was just mind-blowing. Hopefully, it will be released as a video or something, as it was magical. The crowd was in awe walking out, and there seemed to be a buzz that there may be another performance in the future. If there is, I, for one, will be there in the front row.

Dave Blass

Photojournalist - Toronto

Website: Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
  • Twitter