Review by Trevor Proctor.
From Zurich in Switzerland Bölzer has been creating and building extremely strong support within the underground since their inception in 2008. They are undoubtedly one of the most unique, and most important, bands to grace our underground in recent years; a duo that uses the simplest ingredients of voice, guitar and drums yet somehow manage to craft one of the most destructive and dense sounds out there.Bölzer’s release schedule over the years has been a sparse yet effective tool in furthering their support with a demo and two EP releases being the sum of their output before Hero, which has just been released on CD and LP by Iron Bonehead Productions.
Released in October 2012 ‘Roman Acupuncture’ was their debut demo which the band released independently on CD-R and cassette but since then it’s had a significant number of re-issues. Iron Bonehead Productions re-released it on cassette in April 2013, then on vinyl in April 2015 with Invictus Productions also issuing a CD version during 2015. The ‘Aura’ EP followed in May 2013 and again featured music strong enough to prompt several re-pressings. ‘Aura’ first came out on vinyl via Iron Bonehead Productions in May 2013 with a limited edition gold pressing following in July, a CD version followed from Necroshine Records along with a cassette pressing from Iron Bonehead Productions in September of the same year. As if this wasn’t indicative enough of the strength of Bölzer’s following a silver vinyl edition was released in November 2013 with a further pressing on clear vinyl coming out in May 2014, again via Iron Bonehead Productions.
Invictus Productions released Bölzer’s next EP, ‘Soma,’ on CD and cassette in August 2014 with a vinyl edition coming in September 2014 – to date ‘Soma’ has now had a total of three pressings with the most recent being a gold vinyl edition from Invictus Productions in April 2015. All of these releases/re-releases helped catapult Bölzer to the forefront of the underground due to the massive critical acclaim they garnered although critical acclaim has never been something Bölzer has pursued and it has never been a part of their agenda. A combination of their hard work ethic, their music and notoriously lethal live shows has been more than enough to bring Bölzer the support they fully deserve.
As well as being their debut full length 'Hero' is also Bölzer’s first new music since 2014’s ‘Soma,’ so we could easily say this is one of the underground’s most anticipated albums of 2016; in fact it’s definitely one of the most anticipated debut albums of recent years. Quite often disappointment can go hand in hand with anticipation levels like this but thankfully this isn’t the case with ‘Hero.’ Bölzer premiered the track ‘I Am III’ in September and instantly every man and his dog had an opinion – many loved it, some were disappointed and others wanted to hear more before making up their minds. I gave it a few listens but held back from listening to it too many times, opting to wait on the digital promo and true enough it followed two weeks after the premiere of ‘I Am III.’ Downloaded and burnt to CD within minutes of receiving the email it wasn’t long before ‘Hero’ was given an initial listen and I’ll be the first to admit I had my reservations and it would be a few listens later before these reservations would turn to the realisation of how just how good this album is.
Instantly noticeable are the production levels on ‘Hero’ which are much cleaner than on previous releases, yet this cleanness only lends itself to Bölzer’s craft, enhancing the twists and turns of the swirling dynamics within their music – making you appreciate more than before how complex some of their song structures are. On ‘Hero’ there’s also some variation to the vocals which for me took a little getting used to, but as with the enhanced production levels once you get your head round them they do lend an alternate quality to the duo’s typical sound. Another factor that’s greatly enhanced on ‘Hero’ is the song writing which is certainly more flowing and adventurous than on their EP releases. Whilst these factors make it sound like Bölzer have departed from their trademark sound it’s not the radical change it may sound like on first listen – it’s still Bölzer and tracks like ‘Phospor’ are testimony to this. Yes, a lot has changed but in my opinion Bölzer are merely exploring and developing their sound which was perfectly and succinctly summed up by the press release which stated, “It all sounds like Bölzer, what they were, what they can be, and most especially, what they currently are. Every aesthetic suggestion, every subtle nuance, everything left unsaid in the past; here on 'Hero,' it’s all harnessed into a molten maelstrom that’s ever more unique (and alien) because it’s unshackled itself from expectation.”
I tend to avoid reading other reviews if they concern a release I intend reviewing but have noticed some negativity towards ‘Hero,’ some of which has even been posted by Bölzer on their own Facebook page. Negativity like this, whilst laughable, is also indicative of a lack of knowledge and understanding of both this band and the underground which birthed them – Bölzer gained the notoriety they currently enjoy via hard work and talent – both of which they have in copious amounts.
A lot of today’s music is too accessible and immediately gratifying but unlike this mass produced muck an album like ‘Hero’ just gets better with every listen. However, if you don’t have the ability to listen a little deeper and let go of some of your pre-conceptions to scratch beneath the surface of what you’re accustomed to you may be disappointed. Undoubtedly a grower of an album and one that reveals its qualities a little more with every listen – give this the attention it deserves and you’ll be presented with one of the year’s most rewarding listens.
My year-end lists tend to have more than one title joined on the number one spot and this could well be the case this year but no matter what this will be one of them.
Unbelievably good and an easy 10/10.
01 - Urdr
02 - The Archer
03 - Hero
04 - Phosphor
05 - Decima
06 - I AM III
07 - Spiritual Athleticism
08 - Chlorophyllia
09 - Atropos.