Mysterious Bay Area quartet Bosse-de-Nage have quickly risen to become one of the most compelling bands in the US black metal scene. After releasing two stellar albums with the up-and-coming Flenser Records, the band has moved over to the equally mighty Profound Lore for III, a recording that sees them continuing to push their unique take on the genre ever further towards the fringes, creating something that’s as surreal as it is scathing.
Bosse-de-Nage have long exhibited a tendency toward mixing their buzzing black metal stylings with a Slint-esque brand of dark post rock, and with III they have managed to fully realize this fusion; one could dream up innumerable outlandish descriptions, such as: “it’s the ultimate mash-up of Spiderland and Filosofem!” and while such exercises in hyperbole might be somewhat accurate, they also do Bosse-de-Nage a great disservice, because III is so much more than just an amalgamation of influences. Their vision is theirs alone, a vision of black metal that has little interest in genre conventions.
III is easily Bosse-de-Nage’s most dynamic recording thus far, a mesmerizing study in contrasts. It is ugly and vicious and beautiful and psychedelic; the band effortlessly juxtaposes moments of quiet contemplation with torrents of blistering blackness, taking the loud/quiet/loud compositional scheme and using it masterfully to create discernible peaks and valleys within the music. Clean tones give way to unrelenting sheets of distortion, while spoken word passages are engulfed by the strained screams of a vocalist who sounds as if he’s being forced to watch snuff films and swallow razor-wire. When the band unleashes a tremolo-picked outburst of violence on songs like “The Arborist,” every aspect of the music bristles with a feral electricity that makes III one of the most emotionally charged black metal albums to come along in years.
Thematically, Bosse-de-Nage’s lyrics owe much to literature. Although there’s nothing on III that approaches the spectacular Bataille-esque depravity of II‘s “Marie in a Cage,” tracks such as “Desuetude” and “Cells” are subtly unnerving narratives that depict aspects of our everyday existence turned mind-bendingly nightmarish. In this respect, I’m reminded of William S. Burroughs’ Naked Lunch; not because of similar subject matter or even writing style, but the effortless manner in which III re-constructs reality into something utterly hallucinatory, twisting it to the will of the narrator. One can’t help but wonder if Bosse-de-Nage are describing parts of Interzone that Burroughs himself never had the chance to explore.
All of this is to say that Bosse-de-Nage are arguably the first truly postmodernist black metal band. I realize this is a frightfully pretentious-sounding claim, but think about it; one of the main tenets of postmodernism (or at least my understanding of it) is that there are no absolutes, and black metal is largely defined by absolutes. I can think of no other band that has thrown out those rigid genre boundaries in order to create black metal based upon their own search for artistic truth to the degree that Bosse-de-Nage have with III.