By: Nick Manduley
Soul, rage, rock; these adjectives only scratch the surface of the black feminist powerhouse that is Seattle’s Bearaxe. The four-piece punk act blends progressive rock roots with the raw, emotive stylings of soul. Vocalist Shaina Shepherd delivers a mind-blowing vocal performance on their debut EP Last Call, fusing her biting soul voice with explosive jazz and funk influenced proto-punk.
On Last Call, the band doesn’t beat around the bush for one second; the opening track ‘Buy You’ immediately graces the listener’s ears with a devilishly nasty guitar riff courtesy of guitarist Matt Williams. Shepherd enters the mix with a maniacal laugh as the track explodes into an unstoppable full-band freight train of sound, bound to have the dancefloors of rock clubs everywhere shaking with vigor. Shepherd’s seamless vocal belts give way to her zero-bullshit message to the proverbial ‘gentleman-with-the-crew-cut-in-the-back-of-the-class’: “you don’t own me!”
‘Uber’ is the next the track up to bat, and opens with bassist Jon Lemmon delivering a percussive yet soulful bassline, accompanied by Shepherd’s powerful vocals. As the band enters the track full-swing, Williams and Shepherd go almost back and forth with vocals and guitar. Shepherd sings a line, and Williams replies to her with a positively scrumptious guitar lick. ‘Ready or Not’ pushes the release forward with an angry, upbeat rock progression. Shepherd doesn’t hold back on the high notes, proving once more the strength of her vocal prowess. It’s clear that ‘Ready or Not’ is one of the band’s magic hat tricks to get any crowd to maximum levels of hype.
‘Brown Liquor’ keeps up the pace set by ‘Ready or Not’ with crushing mid-tempo riffage and fat bass lines. Posing itself as a hard rock tune reminiscent of the classics, ‘Brown Liquor’ is easily fan favorite. The next track, ‘Undertow’, opens with a sweet bassline before Williams joins in with some clean-toned guitar noodling, with Shepherd giving a soulful and perhaps more pop influenced vocal melody. The laid-back vibe on this track rounds out the band’s sound, and gives an excellent dynamic to Last Call. The closing track ‘For the Kill’ is an aggressive, funkalicious mid-tempo track with excellent guitar work reminiscent of Rage Against The Machine’s Tom Morello. For one last time, Shepherd graces us with her powerful high notes before the song shifts to a more upbeat feel, solidifying the EP as an album that goes out the same way it came in: with a bang.
Last Call is now available on all major streaming platforms. Fans can catch the band performing these epic numbers live on September 21st at the Vessel Taphouse in Lynwood, WA, and then again on September 29th at The Sunset in Seattle.