Album Review: BOSSE-DE-NAGE Further Still
If you look back to the review I wrote of the latest Drudkh album back in March, you’d have to be blind to miss out on all the speculation about how much the band’s self-imposed cloak of mystery has harmed them on the popularity circuit. I’m not sure where Bay Area black metal bookworms Bosse-de-Nage remain on the mystery continuum, but I remember being shunned when trying to set up an interview around the time of their second album, II.
Maybe they didn’t want to answer questions about lyrics based on the works of Alfred Jarry, Georges Bataille, Anais Nin, and others, in concert with the aching lack of creativity they put into titling their records, but the party line was "Bosse-de-Nage do not do interviews." However, that was seven years ago and here we are Facebook and Bandcamp pages and American tour, later. It would appear the veil has been lifted to some extent; the obfuscation having cleared up in time for the band’s fifth album, Further Still.
The past has seen this mysterious-no-more quartet (there are photos of them in press kits and on their Metal Archives page) lumped in with the atmospheric and post-black metal scene. Specifically, their pairing with Deafheaven which, depending on who you ask, can be taken as a compliment or insult. The comparison can be justified during some components of Further Still. However, as a whole, the album plays more like a crust punk rocker hell-bent on grinding it out like latter-day Brutal Truth while sporting ball hugging jeans made mostly out of patches of Scandinavian d-beat superstars.
Further Still sounds natural, devoid of heavy processing or deliberately muted tones. There’s a looseness to the nine tracks that may not swing in the conventional sense of the word but sounds like a band hanging out in a greasy jam space with beers cracked, cigarillos hanging out of the corner of their mouths, rocking out as a unit. The guitars buzz, the drums are tornado-like and the vocals are harsh, yet clear, dripping with gristly angst that falls somewhere between filthy hardcore and some kid yelling at his mom about borrowing the car to go into the city to see what’s left of Crass play Crass songs.
“Sword Swallower” has Dillinger-esque street fight rhythms and atonal hoarse (horse?)-throated vocals augmenting rapid-fire black metal swathes that baste on engaging melodic spaciousness to the chord voicings. On that same tack is the chaotic drum battering at the palpitating heart of “My Shroud” which showcases a riff that sounds like a collaboration between Emperor and Merzbow.
There’s a vocal scuff up that moves songs like “Vestiges” and “The Trench” from the realm of luxurious alt/indie-flavoured black metal towards a veneer consisting of living in a squat, playing sketchy shows in damp underground venues, and transgressive literature hot off the warehouse printing presses. Bryan Manning’s delivery is ramshackle and random. Depending on your perspective, it gives the linearity of their riffing a frazzled feel that’s effective in creating a swirling miasma of point-counterpoint metal or just fucks up a good thing with vocal lines patterned after the concentric spray of a first time Kalashnikov user.
“Crux” combines the band’s Norse starting block sensibility with simple, start and stop grunge organics for the album’s most rocking sequence. On the other hand “Listless” overcomes all typicality as the epic, ethereal riffs refuse to be blurred by Manning’s scattered vocal jiggle to deliver one of Further Still’s few moments of consistent earworm melodicism.
And herein lies the fork in the road as it applies to this album: some listeners may see the vocal phrasing as a scattershot addendum that’s more deleterious to the band’s sound and style while others may get off on Manning’s laissez-faire rawness, instead picking up on how the tumult falls in line with the lawless pitter-patter Bosse-de-Nage has introduced with their new material. Personally, I’m a proponent of the latter and am enjoying the added gristle offered on Further Still. Now, do you think they will consider my request for an interview?