Review Summary: Bossk in the ambience
Introductions are important. When The Thin Red Line
and Saving Private Ryan
both premiered in 1998, their approaches to opening scenes differed wildly despite sharing similar central subject matter [spoiler alert: war]. Saving Private Ryan
opens with a beach assault in which death and destruction strike swiftly and mercilessly. The Thin Red Line
's opening frames depict an alligator sifting through murky waters, sun beams flickering through a forest canopy, a question from the narrator: “What's this war in the heart of nature?...”
These introductions set up very different expectations, and each film delivers on its original premise in spades; Spielberg laces his film with gritty action, Malick conjures up an amorphous, drifting dreamscape in which nature dominates the screen even while battles rage.
In 2016, Bossk released Audio Noir
, their first full-length album following their inaugural trilogy of EPs, the last of which was actually a live DVD that came out in 2008. The trilogy demonstrated an uncanny mastery of the slowly surging dynamics that define post metal, and garnered a cult following as a result. It was hard to know exactly what to expect from the band after an eight year hiatus, but Audio Noir
's opening washes of rich, warm chords signalled a band that had expanded their sonic palette, their collection of effects pedals, their budget for production, and their collective vision.
's introduction is once again a crash zoom onto the newest feathers sticking out of Bossk's cap – namely an incorporation of “Noise Manipulation” courtesy of Taro Aiko and Etsuo Nagura of Endon. Opener 'White Stork' emphasises a focus on subtlety and layering, darkening their sound and introducing some new and unexpected timbres. When the drums enter Bossk-style – that is, out of nowhere with a strong, direct groove – there's a heavy delay on the rim shot and an electronic feel to the kit. Layered synths and sounds continue to pile in atop each other, but the track purposefully falls apart before it ever really resolves.
As this introduction infers and as we all hoped, Migration
does represent new ground for Bossk, and the blueprints promise worthwhile expansion, but it would seem that some of Bossk's old toolkit was left in the ute during construction. Some of these tools were left behind on purpose, to be sure. The band stated that they were pushing their own vocals to the wayside, yet these were always a rare treat rather than a core tenet of their sound. Regardless, the two best tracks here, 'Menhir' and 'HTV-3' feature Johannes Persson (Cult of Luna) and Josh Mckeown (Palm Reader) respectively in track-defining vocal performances. You can't miss what's basically still there.
What has almost disappeared entirely is what was Audio Noir
's biggest revelation: the experiments in melodic post rock that gave us the iconic track pairing of 'Relancer' and 'Kobe'. While their new focus on noise manipulation reaps rewards at both ends of Bossk's dynamic spectrum – providing a bridging track like 'Kibo' with intimidating ambience, or adding that little extra tang during some of the album's crushing crescendos – it feels in some instances as if Bossk have been forced to make room for this facet rather than smoothly integrating it into their sound.
The final track pairing provides a model for the potential that's being played with here. After 'Lira' eventually culminates in chugs powerful enough that I'm pretty sure I can hear Jared Dines bust a nut from across the Pacific every time I play it, the track falls into noise which bleeds over into the closer. 'Unberth' builds upon and plays with this foundation, layering the track like a gateau and finally providing some of that sweet post rock icing, but ultimately abandoning the experiment in the same manner that 'White Stork' did at the start of the album. It's dangerously close to being fantastic, but never quite manages to cross the line.
It's bloody hard to clear the bar when it's up so high though, huh? Migration
showcases a Bossk ready to push their dynamics, layering, and general heaviness all the way to the red line, and the high frequency fuckery will have lovers of hi-fi rubbing their heated tubes in awe. If this were my first exposure to the band, perhaps I'd be attempting to proselytise every post metal fan I could point my keyboard at. As things stand, though, Bossk's introductory releases have conditioned me to expect something more.