Bölzer guitarist/vocalist Okoi ‘KzR’ Jones and drummer Fabian ‘HzR’ Wyrsch are a duo capable of doing more on drums and a 10-string guitar than most bands can with five members. Singular of vision, theirs is a profound creative partnership built upon firm foundations of friendship.
For those electrified by 2013’s Aura and 2014’s Soma EPs, and there were many, the wait for a promised full-length has been agonising, yet when preview track I AM III emerged recently, it wasn’t quite what people were expecting. Gone was the oppressive darkness, the rough-hewn edges, replaced with a wider, liberated sound, the riffs still progressively undulating, hungry and sharp, but with their keening edge gilded.
It’s a theme that continues throughout Bölzer’s bold stride forwards, Hero taking the ground laid on the two EPs and building further upon their conceptual dualities: human nature in the face of mythological enormity; a tranformation of the flaws of body and soul; and a thirst for seeking knowledge of the unknown forces that evade us. Such inner and outer conflicts still resonate with tangible sonic force, but with a depth and maturity befitting the record’s longer runtime, the fragile whistling opening refrain of Urdr calling the reverent cataclysm of The Archer down upon it, guitars assaulting in textured waves as HzR’s drums rumble like thunder, harbingers of the thunderbolts yet to strike. The title track elevates the ravening pace and fury yet higher, capturing an atmosphere of imperious defiance. KzR’s vocals alternate between fervent rants, anguished howls and baleful wails, melodic counterpoints to the ever-shifting battle for supremacy between groove and dissonance on tracks like Spiritual Athleticism that makes Hero so compelling. Phosphor is perhaps the ultimate example, majestic pace and power combining with an infectious, stabbing groove beneath transcendent leads, pummelling, pounding, taking your breath away, lifting your gaze above blinding, sunlit thunderclouds.
There’s beauty and grace in Bölzer’s rapture, the likes of which are a rare occurrence: a singular purity of expression that takes everything great about black metal and bends it to their unique will, a bearing of a conflicted soul beneath burning skies, compelling all to fall under its exultant sway.