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Bosse-de-Nage are the existentialist’s post-metal band. Listening to their latest album, the sparsely named ii, one uncovers a radical mixing of black metal sub-sub-genre tropes (“suicidal” screams, the major and diminished chords of post-black metal, the constant clatter of more recent USBM) with post rock influences. However, the resulting sound is unlike any of its contemporaries save one: BDN bring to mind an interesting complement to America’s Cobalt, who also meld black metal with expansive, non-metal idioms (in their case, lo-fi Americana and hardcore). But whereas Cobalt takes a black metal framework and uses it to evoke the American experience (bloodshed, violence, wilderness, and, some might argue, cultural atavism), BDM take the same framework and instead apply it to a more modernist, almost Euro-centric angst, taking up themes of post-industrial, post-imperial isolation and oppression. In short, Cobalt is Cormac McCarthy to Bosse-de-Nage’s Bernardo Bertolucci. The lyrics to the title track “Volume II, Chapter I,” say it all:
This singular man is distinguished by the anxiety he carries in his stomach
Yet, his burden is as artificial as his coat
He receives fresh torment from every person he passes
The anxiety enters through his eyes and passes through his bowels
His trouble however is never expelled like last night’s dinner
There is no inspiration or escape.
Earlier black metal bands have written about Hell in the theological sense; for Bosse-de-Nage, Hell is modern existence. It’s like “No Exit” transformed into a metal album: all the weight of the world crushes upon the postmodernist victim, transfiguring and dehumanizing him. The music reflects these anxieties, lurching from style to style with careful intent but a chaotic result. “The Death Posture” switches exhaustively between slower, Drudkh-like passages and fast, chaotic grinds that remind the listener of a somewhat more accessible Xasthur. “Why Am I So Lovely? Because My Master Washes Me” (one of the most unsettling song titles I’ve heard in recent years) even features major chords reminiscent of ’50s pop music- played at blast beat speed over black metal vocals. It’s as awkward and unearthly as it sounds. The music thus bridges the gap of being human and also inhuman: some parts of the record sound emotionally relevant (like those major chords), but then a discordant riff or suicidal vocal comes in and separates the listener from the fruits of humanity again. This process of identification and alienation is essential to the album’s evocation of instability and anxiety and makes it a fascinating listen. Some may not find it compelling, but those with a taste for exploring the art of angst will not go away wanting.
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