Let me just say out front that I don’t think many people, myself included, would pin me as the person here most likely to write up a recommendation post about a black metal group. It’s not that I don’t enjoy some black metal or blackened music, but it is definitely not within my musical wheelhouse and area of expertise. And yet, here I am, about to recommend an obscure experimental black metal band to all of you! The reason I am doing so is because this band, Balance Interruption, prominently features an instrument I do know an awful lot about and have written about here at great length: the saxophone. It is the inclusion of this instrument that not only makes this band an interesting novelty within experimental black, but turns it into one of the best examples of how intelligently including a non-traditional instrument and influence can completely lift a band’s music from pretty good to really damn great.
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Taking their most recent album, Door 218, from the beginning, you’re pummeled with an effective, if not entirely unheard of, assault of black metal blastbeats, discordance, and vocal theatrics calling to mind the likes of Dødheimsgard. There’s also an element of industrial noise thrown in there occasionally for good measure. Starting around the 2-minute mark on “Last Sunset Without Sun” though, the song opens up to reveal a wholly unexpected, and glorious soprano sax solo. Similar to the model that Wrvth took with their most recent album (or, for that matter, what Kayo Dot has done many a time), Balance Interruption seem to recognize that the shift from darkened modality into lighter atmospherics that much black metal hinges on to create contrast provides a perfect opportunity for some beautiful jazz-style playing.
The descending chord structure of this bridge section works perfectly with jazz playing, allowing the sax to play well within its conventional and comfortable style without sounding at all out of place, even as the rest of the band ratchet up the intensity to transition back into the heavier mode of the song. It’s not ground-breaking, but it’s hugely effective and surprising upon first listen, not least of which due to the decision to use the high-pitched and smoother tones of soprano sax over the lower registers of baritone, tenor, or even alto. I can’t think of another metal band that has incorporated soprano in such a way, which does create a novelty factor of sorts, but because it’s used so effectively it really serves to lift everything else around it.
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Balance Interruption repeat this winning structural formula for most of the album, and though it works well each time on its own, it is a little disappointing to hear them make use of the instrument in only this one way as a solo break/contrast instrument rather than find ways to incorporate it into other parts of the music occasionally. It also tends to make the tracks that don’t make use of it feel flatter and more average by comparison. Make no mistake, Door 218 is a very solid album of experimental black metal through and through, and fans of the genre will find a lot to enjoy here sax or no. But it’s that one element that is able to elevate the music to something greater with more far-reaching potential. It’s a shame that they don’t use that potential to its fullest, but the fact that it exists at all makes Door 218 and Balance Interruption a band absolutely worth checking out and giving a few spins to.