Tuesday, 22 April 2014

#339 - Bölzer - Aura

If there's one thing I know about Bölzer, it's that as of the last couple of months, they have been accelerating forth from the deep recesses of the underground like a comet of acclaim, soaring ever further towards to growing light of the slightly-less-underground part of the underground where a lot of the best metal resides. Either way, the band have begun the journey into the global spotlight of the metal community, and, if the amount of times I seem to hear about the band per week is to be regarded as any evidence, the spotlight into which they are emerging is a bright one indeed. Consequently, it's about time I had a listen...

Listening to the Aura, the quality of the bands work (and the EP thus far amounts to most of it) is quickly given some much needed sonic explanation. There's no doubt about it that Bölzer are doing something very stylistically interesting, and with plenty of talent, to boot. Cavernous but rich tone and production provides the vehicle for the rumbling, at times dissonant death metal tinged with more than a trace of black metal thrown in to add flavour. The death metal elements very much remind the listener of style of the of bands like Necros Christos, who make that extremely ritualistic, almost ritual-evoking death metal, with tracks as much akin to invocations as anything else - As a side note, I'd love to find out if that sound has a name, or simply exists for now as a collection of similar bands. For my money though, Bölzer do a somewhat more interesting job of it than most, injecting a more tangible element of atmosphere into the mix with their guitar tone, which combines a heaviness with an unsettling, almost eerie apocalyptic feel. Several people I've encountered have hailed this tone as being extremely original - bordering on messianic, which, if I'm quite frank, could be perfectly believable if one hasn't listened to Blut Aus Nord or Deathspell Omega - both of which Bölzer almost certainly derives a great deal of influence from, including - especially - the guitar tone, which is exceptionally reminiscent. This, however, is nothing to be ashamed of; Bölzer apply it extremely well, and, as the EP testifies, create something greatly enjoyable with it. 

The real glory of Aura, by my reckoning, lies in how well the band have managed to pull together the influences which are inherent within it; the old-school death metal angle blends surprisingly seamlessly into the dissonant, jarring elements of French experimental-black-metal sound with which they are coupled, giving the record an initially unusual but hugely listenable sonic character which genuinely exudes the spirit of innovation. The EP, especially the centrepiece of the sandwich; "Entranced by the Wolfshook" manages to have a punchy, memorable aspect which is usually reserved for the most conventional and "catchy" of death metal, but simultaneously manages to exceed that - I've seldom heard a song blend a novel sound with being so immediately graspable, and the EP is replete with riffs which not only soar, but remain in mind from the very first listen. The vocals add a further dimension of interest, bucking the death metal - or black metal - archetype by making extensive use of relatively clean vocals - not quite sung, per se, but delivered in an incantation like, almost narrative fashion, albeit swinging frequently into harsh vocals, giving the EP flexibility, variety and most of all contrasting sections, furthering its diversity as a sonic journey. The vocal delivery seems to very much compliment the atmosphere and implicit aim of Bölzer's music, evoking occult ritual and transcendent ineffability very suitably, and adding to the EP ability to present a thick, spiritual and arcane atmosphere. 

I feel no need to hide the fact that the EP has impressed me quite a bit - a little more than I thought it would, in fact - which is, as ever, a welcome surprise. It wouldn't surprise me if, five years perhaps down the road, Bölzer are one of the success stories of the underground in recent times - indeed - if a three song EP can capture such an audience as Aura has, then the band are a force to be reckoned with. 

Over-hyped, perhaps, but nonetheless excellent; 8.5/10.