Bosse-de-Nage is a band that quickly found and fully inhabited their own unusual brand of black metal. Their first, self-titled album is probably closest to a "standard," raw U.S. black metal sound, if such a thing can easily be defined, but even then there was something special about them. It wasn't long before the vocals moved further to the front and became even more raw and pained, while at the same time they started mixing in a strong post-rock/alternative rock influence, particularly Slint. I noted as much when I reviewed their last album, III, for this very site.
Have they taken any huge deviations from that template with their newest album, All Fours? Not really, but don't mistake that for a lack of progress. When first listening to this album, I decided they'd dialed back the abrasiveness in favor of more melody. Then I went back and listened to iii and then All Fours back to back, and I decided that they had in fact dialed up the harshness. It's possible that I'm just losing my mind, but I think the reality is that Bosse-de-Nage's evolution on this album is a bit more subtle and takes many more listens to fully reveal itself.
Like the last album, All Fours features screams being pushed to the very edge of control, mixed with occasional spoken word interludes that carry as much ominous feeling as the screams unleash rage and pain. The guitars chime and resonate, sometimes as tremolos and sometimes as more angular riffing. And as with the last album, the drumming is absolutely top notch. As I said in that last review, I'm convinced that the unnamed drummer has some serious jazz chops, and there's even more to love here. Listen to "A Subtle Change" and prepare to have your jaw drop at what the drummer does here. It's furious, deft, and intricate all at the same time.
III featured lyrics that were fascinating, but also surreal and elliptic. All Fours continues that tradition, but now with a hefty dose of sex on the fringes. I think that fascination has always been there--after all, this is the band that had songs called "Marie in a Cage" and "Why Am I So Lovely? Because My Master Washes Me." But to my ears, there's a whole new level going on here. Album opener "At Night" describes a mash up of sadism, masochism, and pony play. Cigarette ash is dumped onto Marie's body, and the "ashes cling to the urine on her torn clothes." Her "violent dressage thrills" the narrator. The final sentence of the song, appropriately, says, "These acts are nauseating but necessary." The instrumental music at the beginning of "Washerwoman" would be a proud addition to any alternative rock catalogs, but that's before the band turns up the "MORE!" knob all the way up, and the song ends with a female party crasher "with her mouth full of lather" announcing, “I come from the City of Hair beyond the Wrinkled Mountain and I will not rest until I've washed every penis in this room.” It's a masterful mash up of melodic sweetness and a very strange swinger party.
In early press, there have been some comparisons to Deafheaven, which isn't surprising given that the bands did a split together and both bands are clearly interested in using alternative rock as an inspiration. I've also read the inevitable backlash about that comparison, which isn't surprising given how polarizing Sunbather was. I don't want to make too much of this, because the bands aren't sound-alikes by any means. All Fours can and should be judged by its own merits, and I wouldn't be surprised if there are fans that like this album much more than Deafheaven's output. For me, I feel the similarity coming from a deeper place--it has more to do with a feeling, the one you get when both music and vocals are dripping with emotion. This is serious heart-on-their-sleeves/punch-in-the-gut stuff, and on that level, All Fours resonates with me in the same way Sunbather did. And I'd be very happy if All Fours gets the same kind of attention that Sunbather did, because I think it's well deserved.