Post black metal is a sub-genre that’s seen real growth in the last few years, both in the range and quality of music it encompasses and the level of recognition these artists are enjoying. German five-piece Boden fit perfectly into this particular corner of the metal world; their sound doesn’t fit the traditional notion of black metal at all, but equally you’d be hard-pressed to say that this isn’t black metal. Their self titled EP has been available digitally for a while but a vinyl version was released at the end of January, and is well worth a listen for anyone with an interest in forward-looking extreme metal. The four songs within draw from various metal subgenres as well as shoegaze, post rock and drone to create a darkly dreamy kind of metal that’s hard to pin down but really rather interesting.
RELEASE DATE: 22 January 2016 LABEL: Meta Matter Records, Holy Goat, Revolvermann Records
Opener “Correspondence” has the rasping, echoey screams and razorwire tremolo guitar lines you’d expect from black metal but the tempo is slowed to a crawl so that the end result falls somewhere between creaking doom metal and hazy post rock. The track feels forcefully slowed, like fighting against a howling headwind or forcing your way upstream against the current. The drums drop out entirely for the second section, leaving the icy guitar lines suspended in place, punctured by stabs of rusty, guttural bass. The result is a song that never seems to resolve, flickering out rather than definitively finishing. It’s a real oddball of a song- simply structured but full of a foreboding and tension that seeps into your memory.
The remaining tracks explore the same kind of territory but come at it from different angles. Boden’s sound is much more uniformly dark than some of their contemporaries- there’s no light and shade, just shade of varying degrees of intensity. Similarly Boden aren’t trying to push the boundaries of metal here- there’s none of the fairytale wonder of Alcest or Deafheaven’s widescreen flights of fancy- their sound may ebb and flow into different sonic waters but the end result is all metal. “Morphin” steps the EP up a gear, opening with a traditionally ferocious black metal assault and some tasty guitar riffs and chugs. Phase two of the track begins with a bendy, pinging guitar sound that feels exactly like the kind of spacey not-quite-metal that Lantlôs were exploring on their last album. But where Melting Sun is lush and lilting, Boden utilises simple, swelling guitar lines and a slowly developing drum beat to create something much starker and colder out of basically the same elements. In its final moments the song explodes into life again, galloping along in true Sunbather style as black metal screams and instrumentation are appropriated into a simple major key chord progression that’s satisfying and cathartic in all the right ways. Fitting all these ideas into a four minute song might’ve made it disjointed but nothing on Boden feels overstretched and there’s no wasted time- songs are tightly constructed and different sections are slotted together with Ikea-like efficiency of design.
“Shine” brings a stronger shoegaze atmosphere to the mix with its brightly-coloured guitar intro before settling into a mid-tempo death metal groove that carries the song to its soaring, surprisingly catchy conclusion. The excellently titled “The Light Inside Is Broken (But I Still Work)” rounds out the EP with more aggressive riffs, unintelligible screams and dramatic shifts in dynamics. Towards the middle of the song there’s a very cool moment where a spooky, whispered post-rock guitar line morphs into a raging black metal scream without ever altering the notes being played, exemplifying the kind of subtle, clever blend of sounds that makes Boden’s music so rewarding. The song ends with a fantastic three minute outro that builds and releases perfectly, adding and removing layers of harsh droning guitars and buried melodic counterpoints to create a thick, fluid sound that’s original and satisfying.
Sustaining such a dark, claustrophobic mood for a 20 minute EP is one thing but I worry that the formula might start to drag over a longer album. Likewise the dirty, abrasive production suits the music but does start to veer away from “raw” and dangerously close to “grating” by the end. Maybe it’s just because I’ve listened to the thing so many times now. In the end what impressed me most about Boden is the no-nonsense, workmanlike efficiency with which they take their music through different sounds and ideas. These four songs cover a lot of ground, not all of which is new or groundbreaking, but the direct song structures and ragged low-fi production gives it a freshness and immediacy. Despite the mix of sounds there’s nothing revolutionary on display here, no showmanship and no pretensions. This is just 20 minutes of good, solid metal from a band who are definitely worth keeping an eye on.