Despite forming in 2008, Swiss black/death metal duo Bölzer have left it until 2016 to finally release their debut album ‘Hero’. Their output so far has consisted of a demo and two EPs, alongside a string of live shows – all have been met with fervent praise, so expectations for this release are exceptionally high before ‘play’ has even been pressed. A lone star style whistle opens the record with ‘Urdr’, before laying over some distant sounding, albeit thunderous, percussion. Atmosphere sufficiently built, they launch straight into the galloping pace of ‘The Archer’ – there is much of the same might and murk that we’ve heard on previous releases ‘Soma’ and ‘Aura’, and then the vocals kick in…
The usual evil growls have not been abandoned, just used more sparingly. In their place, KzR adopts a cleaner style of vocal that would honestly not sound out of place on a Manowar record – it’s honestly a little frightening at first listen and will take a few spins to genuinely get your head around. Long term fans of Bölzer are going to be pushed well out of their comfort zone upon first listen, and it’s completely understandable. Once the initial shock has worn off, it’s easy to hear how well this vocal style fits with the music. Rather than producing a short EP consisting of fewer, longer tracks, an album of average length, consisting of fairly regular song durations has totally altered Bölzer’s style. Compared with their EPs, ‘Hero’ has a much pacier tempo and grander feeling riffs, KzR’s vocals soar alongside this.
They’ve not compromised on their heaviness at all, just switched up the dynamic – it’s a definite gamble on their sound but one that has paid off. The pristine quality of the production allows for every element to shine and puts a keen focus on HzR’s drumming that we haven’t heard previously; he’s a juggernaut behind the kit, with some double bass pedal work that adds a unique ferocity to each track. Forgive the initial shock and stick with ‘Hero’ it’s an eventually catchy and, ultimately, rewarding listen.
(8/10 Angela Davey)