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Black Metal

AURA… Bölzer Review

Switzerland’s two piece Bölzer have been sharpening their ruinous war tools to a much finer edge since their debut. Engraved with the art of Alexander L. Brown, fellow Witchrist warrior, their latest tincture Aura materializes as unique among it’s ilk and impressive in it’s own right: a dark and entrancing beauty in a genre where this is uncommon, and is still permeated by the stench of supernatural death and chaos.


For those who haven’t heard of them Bolzer are a newer (2008) death metal two piece imbibing the mythos of ancient Europe, and while they both reside in Switzerland, it is KzR (originally from Switzerland but grew up in New Zealand, ex-member of Aphelon) who some may recognize as the most recent addition to the Witchrist line-up on vocals (2013).

No he wasn’t on The Grand Tormentor so we’ll have to wait to hear his contributions there, but there will be a few interesting quirks to his approach on Aura that would be completely out of place in the context of that bands style I would argue. Passionate for sure, his vocals alternate from howling shouts at various degrees of clean and hoarse — like a battle cry during a storm — and mixed with traditional cavernous death growls that seem more standard (and which are what you encounter first).

The contrast brings your attention to them more than you would with a singular vocal approach. Both are utilized well in the context of the instruments despite what you may expect from a death metal band, in fact it’s a damn nice change from the standard fair.

He handles the guitar(s) as well, which are rich and layered playing with both vile tremolo writhing and twangy, bending and undulating rhythms, chords (clean and distorted) which are pretty damn captivating. They really don’t fall into Deathspell Omega, Gorguts, or Ulcerate territory though which is interesting. You might make some comparisons with say Abyssal, maybe even Thaw but their sound still differs. Drum duties are handled well by the mysterious HzR who seems to be a Swiss native with no (known) prior band involvement, but you wouldn’t know it with the way he performs here hammering a pathway out for KzR.

However if you’ve heard their demo none of this will be surprising. In fact their debut Roman Acupuncture (recently repressed in cassette format over at Invictus Productions) made it pretty clear that both members have plenty of experience and interesting ideas as to where to take their sound; it was deceptive in it’s quality and showed promise. Again it was something I only listened to this year while desperately catching up on backlogs and another regretfully missed gem of 2012.

Experience doesn’t make the task of creating something worthwhile and interesting any simpler however and I would assume these two death purveyors know this. The strong motivation to expand comes through in Aura brightly and what is surprising here is the leap in growth in just a year over only three tracks. It’s clear they’ve taken their time creating and selecting material to press into this EP.

If you have not heard it that first demo, Aura capitalizes on it’s best qualities: an almost Immolation-like orchestral impressiveness and bendy oddness while remaining occult, dirty, and a little urgent feeling like Crowpath. It remains remarkable that this is just two people as it feels far larger, and with the added production benefits Bölzer’s warped death spell can enchant and poison with an great effectiveness.

That orchestral quality I mentioned shines and engulfs at just the right time, in each track the harmonized rhythms are very prominent from the first track “CME” (or “Coronal Mass Ejaculation”), which in its opening 30 seconds sounds like a reinterpretation of Amenra’s “Terziele. Tottedood” over some pretty busy drumming.

This is something I’m all for of course, but they steer away from that when death metal infects the riff, bending with the wailing vocals as the drums crash more gently, a constant pressing ‘thud’ from the rapid kicks. The break away is simple and catchy in a classic death gallop.

While the opening moments of the first track aren’t tame by any means it’s an example of Bölzer’s atmospheric tendancies minus the pure malevolence that structures this torrential downpour of darkness. They don’t rest on this and pursue the more tumultuous aspects of their sound, and the aural labyrinth Bölzer erect after that twists certainly but never becomes as complex as Portal for example.

I think it’s to their benefit. Yes there is definitely some more involved sections but their approach remains powerful via a heavy and untraditional by the unrelenting HzR, to classic single-note, dark tremolo passages. Breaking up this are those ghostly harmonized chord sections that pierce you with each gentle sweep.

The mix of vocal styles, simple blackened or more traditional chunky death riffs sliding into warped and uplifting, pseudo-symphonic, anxious rhythm sets them apart. Aura establishes itself well on the opener and Bölzer should be damn confident with their representation of their sound here. Black metal is certainly a part of this but the end product feels far further on the side of death metal.

The strange thing about this style of death metal though is while it is no doubt dark and brooding, there are various moments that feel less encompassing of that evil vibe that much of their brethren involve themselves in. That aspect is undeniably there, but for example the beginning section of the second track “Entranced By The Wolfshook” feels far more ethereal despite the aggression that sears through the tremendous screaming rhythms (and it returns at the end much to my liking), the only evil taint coming from the deep growls and tortured howls.

I won’t call it psychedelic because it’s a little different than that, it sounds bright and oppressive. Anyway the riff breaks down directly after each repetition to a more recognizable hammering, punctuated by those violent powerchord spikes. Continuing from that intro section moment is followed up by a return to despicable riffcraft, the longer section of churning that occurs three minutes taking selectively from black metal like Dodecahedron. But occasionally you’ll encounter these points which contrast greatly with the perceived tone or impression you get from the genre it falls into.

“CME” has a few of those ethereal contrasts them as well but their use in “Entranced…” is a little different. It’s a strange uplifting sense wrapped in urgency or anxiety, like desperate horns of the heavens blasting as the lauded gates are besieged and destroyed.

“The Great Unifier” brings the record to a close in a ten minute excursion, opening with a slow and downward diving, harmonized tremolo riff, shrouding the track immediately with an apocalyptic atmosphere. Bolzer then set about drawing out long tremolo sections which shift slightly in density, the entire time being buried by lethal percussive beatings, as twangs of dissonance and open strings encircle the winding thread they’ve cast out.

Bölzer build something entrancing from this point, the varied vocals livening the seemingly haphazard changes in notes — and unexpectedly this devoles into a more sludgy slowdown that once again smells faintly of Amenra. Only for a second however because after a short fade the lumbering riff heard in the beginning comes back and scorches the path before it bare, readying you for the ceremonial outro.

I think Bölzer are still a little underrated and I’m definitely late as well, but if Roman Acupuncture didn’t lift them up for proper scrutiny then Aura certainly will. These two, to a degree, approach their death metal differently and it results in something unexpected despite a distinct familiarity. They’ve worked hard and their latest work definitely feels apart from a lot of recent entries, even the strange ones, but does not necessarily exceed their strangeness either.

I’m interested in hearing where they take it from here because Aura is a definite win for Bölzer. The MLP edition of Aura is official up to order from Iron Bonehead Productions and will no doubt appear in the distros of as Nuclear War Now! Productions, Dark Descent Records, Parasitic Records, etc. I would highly recommend picking up their records if you’re into warped death metal oddities.

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