This has been an insane week, and certainly not in a good way. At all. Sometimes that anxiety and frustration you feel can be tempered some by music that sounds even more unbalanced than you are at the time.
There are different styles of music and various approaches that can make the madness and chaos in your head seem to make some sense. Or at least manageable. So I’m quite thankful this week for two new offerings from Flenser Records, who we’ve spoken to you about many times in the past and will do so well into the future. They have two new albums ready for you that, if you’re like me and just need to know someone is more fucked up than you at a particular time, should help you rest a little easier. Or maybe it’ll stop you from destroying a piece of furniture or valuable vase. I own no vases.
It is with that introduction that we start with the second full-length offering from San Francisco’s ultra-bizarre, completely-out-there, no-way-to-describe black metal unit Bosse-de-Nage. But, Brian, you just described them as black metal. OK, yes, that’s a description. But it’s like describing Cookie Crisp as cereal. What does that really tell you? And actually, they prefer the title grey metal. I have almost no information about the band to share with you other than they’re a four-piece who go by letters instead of names and produce some of the most psychotic, yet exciting black metal today. Their music truly is an emotional gut-check, and you can’t just put this on because you want background noise. You better be ready to pay attention and be as disturbed as you’ll be listening to any metal band of any sub-genre. In a day and age when devils and skulls and upside-down crosses come across as amusing and static, I require something that conveys true anguish and mental scarring, because it’s what feels real to me. “ii,” the new one from Bosse-de-Nage gets me there every time. I don’t know, if I had a chance, if I’d even want to meet these people. I like the mystery behind the band, and I don’t want the curtain raised. I relish in the cloaks and masks (figuratively, of course).
The one slight revelation we get from the band this time is a lyric sheet. And good luck with that. The lyrics sound like a mad man’s diary. These are straight-up stories that serve as what’s howled manically over these songs, and the words are chilling, seemingly nonsensical in spots, but weirdly aware. In fact, these songs sound quite observational. I’m not even sure on what level. Sometimes it sounds like seductive slave master such as “Marie in a Cage,” and it’s nice to have our Marie back after her turns in “Marie” and “Marie Pisses Upon the Count” from the band’s first record. I’m also going out on a limb that this is even the same Marie. Sometimes it’s as actual servant, which seems apparent on closer “Why Am I So Lovely? Because My Master Washes Me.” I mean, just take in that song title.
Musically, what’s on “ii” is more digestible than the band’s debut. Now, hold on. That doesn’t mean you can come into this record having no knowledge of this band’s nightmarish transmissions and expect to get this right away just because you’ve heard some black metal. You can’t. It won’t work. It’s only more approachable to those who spent hours with their debut, as I have. If you never heard their debut, by all means, do so before jumping into this just so you can appreciate the new ambiance. The songs, while dark and damaged, burst with melody, and the vocals, harsh and shrieky, fit with the music perfectly. There’s even some singing here, as thorny as it may be, even if it doesn’t like crooning. Opener “Volume II Chapter I” is riveting and punishing, leaving you a mangled mess, but “The Lampless Hours” actually begins with a calming post-metal opening that would make Slint or ISIS smile before letting loose into emotionally gushing black metal. It’s a song that makes your heart surge, even if the narrator seems to be struggling with his outward expression. Haven’t we all been there? “The Death Posture” is a bit more calculated, at times, in its tempo, and there’s even more post-metal influence on the track, giving it a nice variety that keeps it fresh over its lengthy running time. And, of course, “Why Am I So Lovely?” sends us off screaming into the night, likely naked with fear, about what we’ve experience and what’s ahead. It’s an amazing trip and an incredible second opus from a band that deserves a lot more attention from our magazine friends than they’ve gotten. This is, to me, what true black metal is these days, and I can think of only a few bands who do it as interestingly and a bloodily as Bosse-de-Nage.
For more on the band (and don’t expect much), go here: http://bdn.greymetal.com/
Now, the other record Flenser has ready for you is from Circle of Eyes, a band name that freaked my wife out so badly she asked I never repeat it. If you think about it, it is kind of an uncomfortable image. But maybe you’re supposed to feel that way when listening to their self-titled debut album that’s out now on cassette (in really limited quantity) and on vinyl by way of Anti-Matter (link below). Basically, if you like your doom drone metal forest-fire-smoke thick and suffocating, then this effort’s going to be for you.
I hear a lot of Sunn 0))) and Bloody Panda in what these guys do. And these guys, by the way, are Thrull from Necrite (a band not to shy about its affection for Anderson/O’Malley) and Kevin Gan Yuen of Sutekh Hexen on guitars, with Swamp Witch’s J acting as the guy who sounds like he’s being bludgeoned to death in the background. His vocals sound like they hurt to put to tape, and they’re painful to hear played back, but in a good way. The music, obviously, is fed to you quite slowly, but with incredible blasts of volume and thick rivers of sludge pouring down your throat mercilessly. Just take on a little bit of Side A cut “Penumbra (Awoken)” for all the evidence you’ll need.
“Woe Betide the Worms (Dirge for Eternity),” your Side B opener, reminds me a bit of Khanate vocally, where J sounds like a man possessed with no else to have discussions than with his demons, while the music slinks along and actually sounds dissonantly pretty at times. Or is that dissonantly abused? Not sure. Maybe both work. Closer “To Wander (Sacred Time)” has a seemingly gentle way about it, as the moody guitars and feedback hum together, as the vocals still teeter on madness, as they should. It’s a punishing, anguished song that sounds like the end of one man’s sanity, and if that’s the case, perhaps the end of his existence. It’s not something you want to hear if you are on the brink. And if you are, please call somebody. Not Circle of Eyes, though.
So there, two spectacular records that come to you by way of Flesner. Each approach your fragile psyche from different directions, with separate ways to attack or soothe you. It really depends on what style of music you like when figuring out which to buy (if you’re torn), but remember you need an open mind to fully embrace these pieces of art. For the right consumer, these are bands you’ll treasure, even when your friends give you strange looks and call you weird. Of course, you’re weird. You should embrace that. You also just might be more enlightened than the rest, and I think Bosse-de-Nage and Circle of Eyes are more substantive than most other metal bands I hear every day.
For more on Circle of Eyes, go here: http://www.myspace.com/circleofeyes
To buy these albums, go here: http://store.theflenser.com/
To buy Circle of Eyes on vinyl, go here: http://www.anti-matterrecords.com/2011/07/amr-001-circle-of-eyes-self-titled_20.html
For more on the label, go here: http://theflenser.com/