Bosse-de-Nage continue warped, psychological black metal path on agonizing trip ‘Further Still’

Surely in the past when a friend asks what a particular band they never heard of sounds like, you’ve gone the easy route of saying, “I can’t really describe it. You just have to hear it.” I’m not really allowed to do that. Actually, yes, I am. It’s my site. There’s no boss. But I try not to be that effortless, so here we go, trying to explain another record from Bosse-de-Nage.

The Bay Area-based black metal band has one of the strangest styles and personalities of anyone in the sub-genre. You should not be thinking corpse paint and skeletons and devils. Instead, imagine psychological trauma, mental torture you enact on yourself over and over because you have no sense of control, and thinking of demons long since exorcized who have come back to feast again. The band’s fifth album “Further Still” might as well describe their approach to their art, as each release they’ve built on their warped foundation and kept twisting it against its will until life’s blood was further wrung from its quivering body. The band also has operated under a guise of secrecy, only using single initials as names, though two of its members (vocalist Bryan Manning and drummer Harry Cantwell) have revealed their identities, while the others (guitarist M and bassist D) remain somewhat obscured. All that matters, though, is the band’s sprawling, unorthodox delivery, as well as Manning’s deranged diatribes and twisted stories delivered from a dank dungeon long before the advent of the treatment of mental illness. I don’t say that in jest to sufferers; as one myself, Manning’s vocals always have given a deep sense of dread and anxiety that can be tasted.

“The Trench” starts off with melodic riffs, deranged howls, and a pace that’s continually stirring. The vocals reach around corners and spread themselves heavily over everything, while later on, Manning wails, “Once I’m too old to perform even these simple functions my only value will be of the nutritive sort,” as the track takes on proggy storms and bleeds raw emotion. “Down Here” has thick bass prowling, while Manning starts off, “I am old and filthy. My body is rotten. The disfiguration of my physique is so advanced that my appearance is practically unimaginable,” which is nightmarish. Melodic riffs twist with stern strikes, as the tortured wails take this song barreling downhill into doom. “Vestiges” has guitars racing, shouts and growls tangling for control, and any sense of sanity slowly boiling away. The terrifying tale eventually calms a bit, letting post-rock style melodies in for added color before the song gains speed again. From there, the ride rolls and clobbers, the pain builds, and we’re out in a warm rumble. “A Faraway Place” has a fiery vocals tradeoff at the start, reminding, oddly, of Converge, as the guitars surge and tangle. Manning’s prose is howled forcefully over the flow, as the drums attack, guitars charge and compel, and then everything goes ice cold before the sounds bleed out into a furnace. “Sword Swallower” is a fast explosion that has the guitars cutting through, with Manning howling about the main character shoving the sword down his throat, only to have it protrude from his backside, which the performer displays to the audience. It’s fucked up.

“My Shroud” starts with clean guitars, as noise hums dangerously, and the track slowly bleeds toward its breaking apart. About two minutes into it, the madness arrives, with Manning barking, “I was born dressed in a shroud, and I have been wearing it ever since. I will die wearing it.” The track speeds up and into a heavy storm, with the pace jerking back and forth before it flies downhill and charges closed. “Dolorous Interlude” is built on synth waves, strings sighing, and noises scraping, feeling mournful and hopeless as it bleeds out. “Listless” is disorienting right away, as the vocals battle with the melody lines, and guitars slice their veins and spill crimson. There are blind yells behind the wall of horror, with all of the parts tangling like orphan cords, and the track pushing into the void. “Crux” interjects indie rock energy into the quotient, something for which Bosse-de-Nage is known, and then things get devastating, as the growls cry pain, and melodies rain down. Sorrow and fury meet, as the drums crush rock and send it catapulting to earth, as everything comes to a dramatic, terrifying end.

Bosse-de-Nage’s journey more than a decade into their existence remains disturbing and emotionally punishing, with “Further Still” delivering a new, potent dose of black metal strangeness. They’ve managed to both carve out a sound and change their DNA with each record, making their sound familiar yet also alien. They’re not a band to be sampled lightly, though if you’re new to their bizarre display, you really are better off holding off all words and taking the trip yourself.

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