As we deepen our exploration of different genres, expectations form alongside our opinions. This allows us to better curate and analyze music within a constant, torrential downpour of new releases. With bands like Bolt Gun in the broader “post-metal” landscape, we expect powerful themes with a cinematic delivery, something the band executed beautifully on Man is Wolf to Man (2017). Across two parts tallying 23+ minutes each, the quartet employed elements of ambient, drone, black metal, and doom metal to create some of the most epic post-metal I encountered that year. While the general framework of the band’s sound was something I expected, the band’s compositional prowess colored in those margins with vivid, sublime details.
The band have now returned with a follow-up bearing a markedly different structure. None of Begotten‘s eight tracks are even half as long as either piece on Man is Wolf to Man. At first, this suggested a more “normal” compositional approach to epic, atmospheric metal more in line with Neurosis than Bell Witch or Wolves in the Throne Room. Then again, having expectations presents the possibility they will be subverted, which is precisely what Bolt Gun have done with Begotten. Instead of scaling back their approach to fit shorter, more concentrated tracks, the band have expanded the scope of their songwriting and honed in on every last detail. It’s an awing listen that will engulf you with each new venture into its sonic depths.
Case in point, Bolt Gun spend their first two tracks creating tension-filled soundscapes, as if Godspeed You! Black Emperor leaned more toward metal than rock on the “post-” spectrum. Both “Existence is Exile – Nothingness, Home” and “They Herd Together to Bleat Their Hopes” end with more traditional post-metal instrumentation, but the bulk of each track features lush, orchestral atmospheres. The opening track sees rumbling percussion and cymbal crashes piercing through a a dark fog of melodic guitar refrains and muted strings. “They Herd Together” takes a slightly darker tone before ending with a calm, traditional post-rock outro akin to a GY!BE track with flavors of Earth.
It’s not until more than halfway through the next track “How Long the Same?” that we’re greeted by the album’s first metallic outburst. Vocalist Andrew Trevenen shrieks over Talya Valenti’s ritualistic drumming, while bandmates Jon Vayla (guitars) and Val Macukat (bass) create a noise-ridden assault. Their collective efforts feels like a more massive (and certainly more vocally bearable) version of The Body with shades of Monarch, and having the extended build-up over the first two-and-a-half songs makes their metallic release feel all the more heavier and intense.
From here, Begotten flourishes and begins displaying the band’s full creative capabilities. “Crawling Like an Insect Under the Shadow of God” also offers a metallic crescendo, this time bolstered by the kind of blackened, swelling atmospheres you might find on an Altar of Plagues track. Another ambient dirge and dissonant strings follows on “To Lay Like Worms Amongst the Silence,” with a more stirring, orchestral swell on “Dragged to the Wood Pile.” Finally, the band once again pulls all of the components of their sound together for “The Altar of Lies Will Not Be Destroyed,” a post-metal epic that’s as intense as its title.
With Begotten, Bolt Gun continue to develop their penchant for expanding the post-metal blueprint. The band leverages the massive, atmospheric aspects of the genres they employ to create a cinematic collection of songs. Each track proves integral to the development of the album as a whole, and the expanded track list allows Bolt Gun to invest in every detail of this grander narrative. If you’re a fan of “film score without a film” type albums, then this is a must-listen.
Begotten is available now via Art As Catharsis.