Few metal bands are taking the genre on such radical excursions as the reclusive and enigmatic Bosse-de-Nage. Hailing from San Francisco, the band puts the accoutrements of progressive and post-black metal to good use, situating itself in a similar orbit to Deafheaven, Alcest and Caïna. However, while black metal certainly serves as lodestar to its vision, the band crafts an ill-tempered entanglement of genres. Framing its work is the minimalist thread of early ‘90s post-rock. Indie and experimental rock riffing à la Slint, Mogwai, and Godspeed You! Black Emperor appear throughout III, which is Bosse-de-Nage’s first album for Profound Lore.
Bosse-de-Nage’s fusion of heterogeneous genres is endlessly fascinating in sonic terms, and the band’s poetic lyrics ponder metaphysical and private concerns with a surreal accent. Spoken-word interludes provide wonderful Tindersticks-versus-Burzum tussles, and samples dropped in hint at existential crises. It all makes for an innovative anatomy of differing textures. It’s an osteological delight, where the architectures of sound are as perplexing as they are perverse. One thing is for certain: Bosse-de-Nage will not explain the nature of its material, or reveal the inspirations behind its work. Shrouded in mystery and misanthropy, the band eschews promotion, mirroring a stance taken by many of black metal’s more adventurous and eccentric outfits.
Much like similarly inscrutable black metal outfits Deathspell Omega and Blut Aus Nord, Bosse-de-Nage encourages grim inward journeying as a path to revelation. Though the band was clearly birthed upon the sweeping tundra of black metal, the landscapes it prowls are far more insular. The pummel and blitz of black metal is prevalent throughout III, and Bosse-de-Nage remains steadfastly intense. However, the integration of more philosophical and reflective passages, along with a more nuanced sense of pace, makes for an emotionally satisfying and cathartic album.
III ignores the mythology of black metal in favor of more personal themes. The melodic expanse found on “Cells” and “Desuetude” grants space for more personal explorations. The epic stature of “The God Ennui” sets its examination of the self against a stark backdrop. Its eloquent introduction is ground away by the integration of mortifying tones, but coalescing the bark of metal and beauty of post-rock makes for an inviting brew. The euphonious moderates the frosty, transforms the hateful into the hypnotic.
That’s not to say that Bosse-de-Nage have set out to cushion the blow of black metal; there’s plenty of bile and woe to be found throughout III. The caustic tremolo bursts, blastbeats and screeched vocals found on “The Arborist”, “Perceive There a Silence” and “An Ideal Ledge” undoubtedly speak of black metal’s vitriolic heritage. Although the band is not fixated on odes to the diabolic or the majesty of snowcapped Scandinavian mountains, it still smothers plenty of harmony under waves of icy desolation. Bosse-de-Nages’s ability to interweave the inhospitable with the welcoming underscores its inventive brogue. Certainly, the collision of differing noise during the percussive “An Ideal Ledge” (which evokes a gladiatorial battle between avant-black metal outfit Alcest and slowcore heroes Codeine) provides plenty of starbursts of despair. Clearly one of Bosse-de-Nage’s best songs yet.
The band’s previous albums, I and II, were released on Flenser Records, a label well worth investigating for anyone interested in inspired underground artists. Both albums were impressive ventures, and 2011’s II in particular garnered plenty of well-deserved praise. However, III is Bosse-de-Nage’s chef-d’œuvre. Merging melodic elegance with blackened rancor might seem on paper to be an incongruent mix. But the longer you listen, the more it all makes perfect, albeit idiosyncratic, sense – admirably reflecting the conflict and confusion of life itself.
Acolytes of metal orthodoxy will no doubt question whether III is really black metal at all, but the answer is entirely irrelevant. However you ultimately choose to define Bosse-de-Nage won’t change the fact that III is a wholly original work of art. It is brave, challenging and rewarding. If “art is either plagiarism or revolution,” then Bosse-de-Nage’s artistic determination marks the band as truly subversive. Actually, when you think about it, isn’t that what black metal is supposed to be about?