Music, and metal in general, certainly is a form of escapism. It’s a place to go get lost in stories that can range anywhere from horror to the glory of the battlefield to psychological wonders and not be the person you had been the moment before hitting play. But to get involved and sink right in doesn’t accompany every album.
Bay Area black metal wonders Bosse-de-Nage are one of those bands who don’t just make records. They make films and vignettes in the form of songs and albums. They have their own subculture bleeding underneath their passages, and they’ve become one of the most mysterious, unique, and distinctive metal artists ever since their initial demos dropped nearly a decade ago. Starting in 2010, the band has unleashed four full-length efforts (the first two for the Flenser; the most recent pair for Profound Lore, tough the Flenser is handling the vinyl version) that act as mini worlds. From my standpoint as a writer, one does not just hear the songs, record thoughts, and spill them into an essay. Instead, you have to commit to the surroundings, let the roots stretch through your body, and live these songs along with the band. Sure, they’d sound pleasing enough on their own without emotional commitment. But to get absorbed is to see all of the various colors and horrors that turn to flesh and grab you for a full experience in their globe.
And now it is with “All Fours,” the band’s latest release and their most ambitious yet (which seems nearly impossible considering what preceded it), that the drama gets ramped up even further. The ideas are bigger, the approach is expanded and lets their metallic world grow, yet at the same time, it lets them convey some of their rawest emotions and thoughts to date. The members—they go my letters with the indescribable B on vocals, M on guitars, D on bass, and H on drums—spill all kinds of sounds into their concoction, from agitated indie rock to doom to strange noise and dissonance, and on top of it all are the utterly expressive vocals that aren’t just repeating verses and choruses. Read along while B’s rants, sounding like a mad poet in parts, apocalyptic observer in others, and unleashed monster for the bulk. Those who have been tuned into the band’s mystique from day one will slip right back into this dank scene (and yes, Marie is here again and even inspires the record’s title) of submission, humiliation, repression, obsession, and torture the band has weaved into a tapestry of woe.
“At Night” opens this terrifying scene, with Marie, on all fours as noted, offering up bizarre, violence physical contact, and the bruising mentally and physically coming to a head early. The band roars into a pool of milky black metal, with B’s growling grainier than usual, the guitars mesmerizing, warped melodies setting the stage, and the words coming out as dialog then fierce shouts. Once that blistering carnage comes to an end, it’s on to “The Industry of Distance” that smacks right into a feedback haze. A clean pocket of sound emerges, teasing calm, but then that’s torn apart by emotional melodies, blasts of power, and the mangled vocals that sound like a man crumbling. Maybe it’s just me, but I hear some classic At the Drive In during this cut, as the band hits a cataclysmic high and makes you wonder if the anguish and punishment you’re facing isn’t somewhat pleasing. “-” is a quick interlude of ghostly noise that hangs in the air and stings, leading to “A Subtle Change,” with its surging punishment that is like raw black metal merging with frenetic rock and wrenching vocals that keep pushing the capabilities of human lungs and throat. As the song nears its end, the main melody line loops back around, and the soundscape churns to the bitter finish.
“Washerwoman” is odd and disturbing, especially lyrically as this story unfolds, and the 9:21 opus really will darken your imagination. The song chugs cleanly at the start, with B’s disturbing imagery spoken over the waves. The playing gets atmospheric, with a noise hiss slicing its way in, and then it explodes in a rage. The vocals are delivered with menace, and at one point, a guitar solo slithers through, which is a rarity for this band. Chaos, abrupt changes, and murk lead this one to its chilling finish. The first part of “In a Yard Somewhere” has the most straightforward passage of any Bosse-de-Nage track I can think of. It busts open, drives heavily and honestly, and puts a serious burn on your flesh. Noises that sound like a broken-down propeller arise, as the emotion hits a crescendo, and each figure plays like it’s his final moment of expression. “To Fall Down” surges and storms, halting momentarily to let a steely bassline set up shop and for the melodies to start sounding like some ode to nature. The band keeps building layers on top as this one goes, with the vocals reaching a point of desperation and the sounds folding in on themselves and cascade into time. Closer “The Most Modern Staircase” is the longest cut at 9:48, bled into from the previous song. There is a long, introspective section that gets blown to bits when the tempo and fury erupt. The melodies are glorious and wildly burning, with B’s wails sounding pained, as if he’s on the verge of dying from a beating. Every element of the band pours on the intensity, unloading a smothering panic that could leave you gasping, allowing strings to slice through to add beauty to the morbidity, and the whole finally spinning out of control and taking each of your living cells with them.
As usual, a Bosse-de-Nage record is not for everyone, and “All Fours” might seem like an unapproachable document to those new to the band. This album is a continuation of the stories and terrors that have been a part of this band’s DNA from the start, and there’s no telling when these threads will end. Or if they’ll end. But know this: You will be tested, punished, and pushed into the mud by this band, and they will stretch you to your limits. You want an escape? You’ll get one every time. But be warned that this journey will return you changed and maybe not for the better.
For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/blackbossedenage?fref=ts
To buy the album (CD), go here: https://www.profoundlorerecords.com/products-page/
Or here (vinyl): http://store.theflenser.com/
For more on the label, go here: https://www.profoundlorerecords.com/