San Francisco-based post-metal outfit Bosse-de-Nage has returned with their fifth studio album, Further Still. While the band is typically associated with blackgaze (black metal + shoegaze, also unofficially dubbed "hipster metal"), their latest work finds them slightly breaking out of the boundaries set for them by critics through a greater emphasis on the emo, post-rock, and hardcore influences present in their songwriting since the beginning of their career.
Black metal is more present in Bosse-de-Nage's work as an influence mashed up with a variety of other heavy genres rather than a "true" (as purists often say) sound in line with the fairly tightly-set restrictions of the genre. Further Still continues this trend, carrying the breakneck pace, tremolo picking, and blast beats typical of traditional black metal throughout, while expanding its horizons to incorporate influence from punk, hardcore, emo, drone, and even classical.
Vocalist / lyricist Bryan Manning is the main force in breaking free from genre standards, using his voice in a fashion more typical of screamo bands like Envy or Saetia than most black metal acts to highlight the themes of vulnerability and depression in his lyrics as opposed to outright misanthropy and evil. The lyrics themselves are quite literate as well, still unintelligible on record but reading on paper as more meaningful and well-put-together than, say, Mayhem's "Chainsaw Gutsfuck."
The way the songs themselves are constructed is also quite atypical of black metal, with tempo changes and shorter time lengths throughout that contrast with black metal's typically longer, more simplistic, and repetitive structure. "A Faraway Place," the longest song on the record runs at around 7 minutes long — about the average length of a typical Burzum song.
Regardless of how far Bosse-de-Nage strays from their roots, they are undoubtedly still more pummelling, harsh, and chaotic than most of their blackgaze contemporaries and not quite perfectly in line with the label. Post-rock is arguably more of an influence here than shoegaze, with the emotions the music helps convey and the tight, scattered instrumentation acting in an almost cinematic way that is more in debt to Godspeed You! Black Emperor or Mogwai than My Bloody Valentine or Slowdive.
The wall of sound they create is not soft or welcoming, washed in endless reverb and sustain — it is harsh and atonal, created through consistent lightning-fast picking and pounding drums. While there are some quiet moments, they are few and far between, mostly limited to the synth-drone-and-violin track "Dolorous Interlude" and the introduction of the following track, "My Shroud." Also (mostly) absent are the cleaner, softer instrumental breaks typical of most blackgaze outfits, with the group preferring to keep things short, concise, and loud.
Despite genre labels, despite convention, and despite whatever perceived lack of commitment to the genre purists might complain about, Further Still is a unique, creative, and literate take on the traditional black metal sound. It is out now via The Flenser on Amazon.