Bosse-de-Nage’s damaged black metal evolves even further on messed-up ‘III’

Having a deep level of mystery is something absent from today’s society. We live in a 24-hour news cycle that’s even too slow for some people. Everyone else’s business is our own, unless it’s our own lives that are being compromised, then it’s a crime at the highest level. How dare someone look at me? Great me! And chances are that, barring a major catastrophe that knocks us all off the grid, this is only going to get worse.

I said similar things last year when I discussed the debut album from FALSE, a Minnesota-based black metal band that, to this day, doesn’t have a whole lot circulating out there about themselves. Their preference to hide in the shadows was admirable and added to their intrigue, and as I said then, I hope they keep it that way. Why do we need to know their shit? Another band of that ilk is Bay Area black metal psychotics Bosse-de-Nage, who have kept their shroud over themselves for three records now. They don’t do interviews and participate in photo shoots, and it’s a rarity when they do a live show. Their whole aura is self-contained, and the fact that they make such fucked up music that can scar even the sickest of individuals just amplifies that mystery. They seem to be the type, based on the music, that when police drag a serial killer out of a dank basement, that you’d expect it to be one of the people responsible for sounds such as these. But it’s never the people we suspect, is it?

For their third album “III,” that follows their self-titled debut and last year’s “ii,” both released on Flenser Records (they’ll also handle the vinyl version of this), the band jumped to Profound Lore, probably the only other logical spot for their music. They holed up wherever it is they dream up this stuff and came out with a six-track album that’s like nothing you’ve heard before. You can say the exact same thing about their other two albums as well, as they’ve always found a way to create a unique unholy abomination, burn it down, and reanimate it in a different form from the ashes. They’ve always been black metal to a point, as that’s kind of their base, but they always shoot out in other directions so that no label can properly explain them.

While Bosse-de-Nage always were sort of angular and mentally progressive, they really up the ante on “III.” You’ve probably heard the Slint comparisons, and they are pretty accurate, but the guys just kind of go like a runaway car down indie rock’s unpaved, ramshackle highways, not trying to sound pretty or trendy, but instead taking a style that’s largely gone more mainstream, and beating it with a claw hammer. There are many parts on this record where, when you hear the compositions, you expect some throaty clean wails to come forth, but they keep things deadly and maniacal. Vocalist B. still has the knack for classic screamo bloodletting and emotionally unbalanced metallic shrieking, and every time he opens his mouth, you want to call someone to get him emergency medication. The vocals are that penetrating and convincing. I’ve felt this way about every one of the band’s records, really, and musically I’ve always been surprised and stimulated by what they produce. There is no band that sounds remotely like Bosse-de-Nage. No one else could pull off something this deranged and real.

One thing I noticed right away from “III” is that Marie is nowhere to be found. She was in a cage on “ii” and pissing upon a count on their debut, and unless she’s worked into the lyrics somewhere instead (I haven’t seen them yet and sure as hell can’t by ear decipher every word uttered on this album), she’s oddly missing. But that’s the only thing I miss, because the rest of this is so great, so emotionally draining, that I can’t imagine why Marie’s absence would be a hang-up.

“The Arborist” is our first taste of this odd new concoction, as the band launches into a spacious, exciting journey that’s hammered home by the tortured, howled vocals that emanate from B.’s mouth. “Desuetude” goes even more for the off-kilter rock sound, and it even folds in some proggy sections and cascading melodies, and it’s a track that should capture and keep your attention front to back. “Perceive There a Silence” is even more interesting as the music equals the passion emitted in the vocals. It’s also a really strong indication as to just how good these guys are as players, and the fact they have a really effective singer is a giant, flashing red arrow pointing out why this band is so special. “Cells” has some noise drone, military drumming, and spoken vocals, and it should be pointed out that if you spend time with lyrics to any Bosse-de-Nage album, they read like deranged poetry. Eventually this claustrophobic monster detonates with anguished vocals that show signs of a mental breakdown, and it leads to a pair of closing epics.

“The God Ennui” runs 10:21 and starts inauspiciously enough, with a quiet tone and a sense of calm that you just know isn’t going to last. And it doesn’t. There is more recitation of poetry that sounds dark and foreboding, and unlike a lot of other bands that try this sort of thing, it comes off as unsettling and not silly. Eventually, the song bubbles over and an emotional outpouring comes forth. “An Ideal Ledge” sounds like it’s going to start as serenely as “God,” but it’s just mere moments before that idea is thrashed and bloodied, as the whole thing ignites and blood rushes to the surface. But the whole thing has such a weird ending. About halfway through, the band hits on a progression that sounds like it’s building toward a volcanic, cathartic finish, but it never happens. The band keeps on that same repetitious pace until the whole thing kind of fades to black. Some may find it dissatisfying, but I think it’s so Bosse-de-Nage. You never know what’s coming or what they’re thinking. It’s unconventional but totally logical for them.

The damaged, scarred imaginations of these four shadows shouldn’t make you feel good and really won’t calm your nerves if you’re on edge. Bosse-de-Nage are not here to care for you or nurse you through your woes. They’re here to exploit them, dissect them, and piss them across your body, forcing you to endure the torture. This band is the embodiment of a meltdown, and while you might be safer far away from it, you won’t be able to resist experiencing the drama.

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