BolzerIn a short space of time, this Swiss two-piece have created serious, serious waves in the underground. Despite only having one official release out there, they are already being hailed as that old favourite, the ‘next big thing’ in Death Metal, bold proclamations given that prior to the appearance of ‘Soma’, they only have a demo, an EP and a handful of live dates to their name.

A fair chunk of this perhaps can be attributed to two things – 1) the novelty of there only being two of them and 2) THAT riff from ‘Entranced by the Wolfshook’ (the highlight track from last year’s ‘Aura’ EP). OK, so I’m being a bit flippant and there’s clearly something about this act that stands out from the norm, deservedly capturing the attentions of the underground. Therefore, this two-track follow-up represents the perfect opportunity for the band to truly start to carve their legacy.

‘Aura’ showcased a band with a distinctive approach to song-writing and atmosphere – snaking, spiralling riffs interspersed with genuine bludgeon and a unique grasp of obscure, occult atmospheres. With that in mind, ‘Soma’ starts off with ‘Steppes’ and really picks up where that record left off – Bolzer’s trademark slithering, weighty riffs are unleashed with abundance courtesy of vocalist/guitarist KzR and really are the star of the show here (as they have been previously). Its no ‘Wolfshook’ granted, but the juddering chords and chiming octaves are at once captivating and insistent. It’s pure Bolzer, a sign that even at this early stage, the band have really defined their own sound.

The 11-plus minute ‘Labyrinthian Graves’ follows next and is clearly intended to be the showcase piece here. It starts slowly and then builds, KzR’s finger-contorting guitar patterns unfurling like banners in a gale, delivering a relentless surge of complex, discordant distortion. Vocals too run a gamut from desperate cries, aggressive roars and plaintive wailing. The spidery riffing and intense vocal delivery have distinct echoes of ‘N Crugu Bradului’-era Negura Bunget on more than one occasion.

There’s a lot of a value here, no question – but as ‘Labyrinthian Graves’ spins, a modicum of misgiving begins to creep in. As the slithering guitar motifs continue to assault the ears, the attention wanes. It’s almost as if Bolzer have defined themselves TOO quickly, perhaps over-relying on their trademark riffing style. Apart from a minute or so of synth ambience at the end of the track, there’s nothing new here added to the mix. It sounds a ludicrous question to ask of a band yet to release a full-length but have they peaked too early? Are they already running out of ideas?

Of course, only time (and that promised 2015 full-length) will tell but underneath all the obvious quality of this EP, there’s already a burgeoning sense of familiarity about some of this material. By so firmly defining their sound at this stage, there is a danger that Bolzer may have backed themselves into a corner, creatively-speaking. For a band with this much talent, that is a little bit of a worry. ‘Soma’ is good, certainly, but it lacks dynamics and doesn’t really move the band forward as much as their ability deserves. A full-length album will tell us a lot more about them I feel and whatever happens, is destined to be a real event. #

(8/10 Frank Allain)