Bosse-de-Nage Stand Tall on All Fours
A tangible cloud of excitement has floated around Bosse-de-Nage since their first, self-titled full-length, and for good reason. The San Francisco quartet’s latest release, the incredible All Fours, is a unifying work combining strains of black metal and hardcore with vast ambiance and stunningly melodic instrumental work.
Those looking for technical wizardry should look elsewhere; the four men of Bosse-de-Nage play only what is absolutely necessary to achieve a complete and utter emotional deluge. The rough-hewn dynamics are impressive enough, but strip back a few of the more acerbic surface layers and underneath is a grandiose, broad album reaching for greatness. All Fours‘ separate parts are assembled with such precision as to never seem separate. Though the pieces at time occupy different layers of the atmosphere, no compositional gaps are left unattended. As a result, nothing ever sounds forced or like the band has bitten off more than they can chew.
Look no further than opener “At Night” for proof of this. After a few brief seconds of black metal raging, the track breaks down into subtle drumming and lightly overdriven guitar before every element joins together and emits a mad bellow that refuses to let up for the rest of the album’s 54-minute running time, with Bosse-de-Nage only sparingly choosing to exert any kind of control. But the beast needs little taming: All Fours is a whirlwind but not one without sophistication, like a Frank Gehry sucked into a tornado.
Earlier I called this album “unifying,” and I mean that. All Fours supersedes any classifications as”hipster” or “trve” black metal. Bosse-de-Nage couldn’t care less if you bought your leather jacket at Urban Outfitters or if it’s covered in Nuclear War Now patches. Listeners with any interest in extreme music, regardless of their positioning across the spectrum of “kvlt”-ness, are sure to be stunned by this album. In a gorgeous, at times exuberant display of post-hardcore-influenced black metal precision and sprawling soundscapes, All Fours truly transcends arbitrary musical boundaries. It’s an album that has already been heaped with praise, but the manner in which it completely dismisses notions of genre proves it is not without reason.
At a fundamental level, the performances turned in by each member are beyond worthy of praise. Moments where the band strips back, like at the end of “In a Yard Somewhere,” allow vocalist B.’s screams to shine through. Awash with sorrow, his voice beckons like a hand in the darkness, tearing through his deranged soliloquies in an overwhelmingly desperate tone unlike any other.
In fact, the lyrics are a particular highlight of the album. Though B.’s shrieks are rarely all that intelligible, reading along with the lyrics only increases their affecting power. The spoken word Slint-worship of “Washerwoman” is a nice change of pace, with the lyrics taking an obvious foreground position for the first half of the song before B. returns to screaming his lungs out. Not that this is a problem, as his vocal performance carries with it an emotional heft heard nowhere else.
Of course, the band themselves are the reason much of the album works as well as it does. Bosse-de-Nage’s strongest suit is never succumbing to getting bogged down in their atmospheric tendencies. Dense guitar chords ring out across the landscape while the rhythm section blasts away below, but neither is sacrificed in favor of the other. The ambiance is given free rein to expand as it pleases but the crucial element of aggression is never lost. This skill has always been present in the band’s past work, but in the three years since their split with Deafheaven it has been artfully perfected.
Indeed, All Fours is a fine-tuning of the Bosse-de-Nage sound to nigh-perfection. The intensity on display is nothing short of overwhelming but the steady hand of control with which it is dealt matches their charge with catharsis every step of the way. Convincingly combining two extremes so disparate is an unlikely feat, but Bosse-de-Nage’s unwavering exactness make it work. The intuitive inventiveness the band has worked toward since their first demo in 2006 has bloomed and this brilliance is what gives All Fours the shadow it will cast over other metal in 2015. This album has been surrounded by no small degree of hype, but its release destroys any thought that it may be unjustified. For as vulnerable and fragile as its lyrics and music are, All Fours is at its most essential the work of a group of artists totally confident in their ability.