Style over substance and a belated take on Bölzer’s Aura


Have you ever noticed the kind of person that thinks they are being revolutionary by distorting long-held conventions in the most mundane and transparent of ways? As a specific example, they might frame certain words or pronouns differently; they might use “it” instead of “He” to refer to God (god?) to detract from his preeminence and substantiality, or indeed the veracity of his very existence. Or they might shove a “she” into a context where a “he” is the accepted norm, to further their gender biases and agendas. Or, if they are politically correct to a fault, they might litter their work with clunky usage of “he/she”.

The intentions behind such sleight of hand are painfully obvious to the discerning audience who, regardless of the sincerity of said intention, don’t need just such a trail of crumbs to interpret what’s being said. To the discerning audience, these markers are little more than eyesores that go against aesthetics and common sense. Worse yet, they detract from the overall message and instantly single out the source of the message as a try-hard.

It is not that difficult to come up with exotic-sounding riffs. Anybody with decent proficiency at the guitar can head on over to a Chord Finder website, select an out-of-the-way scale like the Byzantine or the Gypsy, doodle over a few positions, and hope to come up with something reasonably “fresh” and “innovative”. Admittedly, there is an appreciative audience for this sort of thing, one that views metal as a collection of discrete moments; to them this uniqueness of the individual riff matters more than how one riff leads into another and the tiny variations in tension and release that are to savored therein.

It seems a natural progression, however, that with time invested in listening to metal, one comes to regard the song as the overriding concern, with the riff relegated to a subordinate role. Bölzer‘s Aura was heralded by the underground as a breath of fresh air upon release but it is a textbook example of a band’s style blinding listeners to its songwriting shortcomings. Belatedly hearing this spacious EP makes the lofty praise routinely heaped on it difficult to fathom, for it falls prey to many of the ill habits that modern bands are susceptible to.

Time is a precious commodity in metal, and especially so among the more intense strains. Bölzer, and so many others, fail to pay it the respect it deserves. Consider Entranced By The Wolfshook, regarded by many as one of the great modern black/death songs; it starts off in a genuinely attention-grabbing manner with a riff that won’t be forgotten. Even more encouragingly, the band introduces subtle variations on the same original motif, approaching a very real crescendo joyous in its looming climax. But instead of taking flight from this precipice and soaring into the sun, the song inexplicably surrenders all momentum by lapsing into the most meaningless, meandering two minutes one is liable to encounter, so disappointing in relation to what has gone before. As an afterthought, the band decides to take up the original thread following this period of inertia, but the moment has passed and the purity of the original idea itself is now sullied and compromised, never to be regained.

The other two songs on this EP are insipid and carry the same stalling tactics that ruin Entranced By The Wolfshook. The great irony and tragedy, however, lies in this song so lauded by the metal junta, offering itself up as the quintessential indictment against modern metal.

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