Bölzer, a duo from Switzerland, made perhaps the biggest splash of 2013 with the release of Aura, a three-song EP that catapulted them to the forefront of metal’s consciousness. Anchored by one of the best songs of the year in “Entranced By The Wolfshook,” Aura instantly launched Bölzer to superstardom with, seemingly all of a sudden, the band in high demand for tours and festival appearances. Heck, Bölzer even managed to play twice at Maryland Death Fest in 2014.
They quickly followed up Aura with Soma, a two-song EP. Their earlier two-song demo, Roman Acupuncture, was also given a wider release. In short, fans were eager for more, an eagerness tempered somewhat by accusations leveled against guitarist/vocalist KzR (Okoi Thierry Jones) about supposed far right political views. The controversy has died down somewhat, but Bölzer still had not released a full-length album until just this week.
The results are mixed. Hero contains that same sense of dissonance with a whirlwind approach to the guitars, and the percussion pounds away with a variety of tempos. Hero captures a certain primal urgency, and the music can be almost exhilarating, particularly during the album’s first half. In fact, the first half is excellent, culminating in “Phosphor,” a droning whirlwind of a song anchored by blastbeats.
But, KzR takes some chances with high pitched vocals in two short tracks that fall flat. “Decima,” a short, minute long interlude after “Phosphor,” is weak and out of place. Unfortunately, it leads in to “I Am III,” a bad song at nearly ten minutes in length with, frankly, awful vocals that nearly ruin the album. A similar song, “Chlorophyllia,” also bad, follows much deeper into the album. The minute long closer, “Atropos,” picks up where “Decima” left off, and falls equally flat.
The second half is saved somewhat by the solid “Spiritual Athleticism,” but Hero is almost unlistenable in certain places. Also, the production is unspectacular. Hero should be seething with power and it simply doesn’t; instead, the dissonance is highlighted at the expense of such power.
The results are very mixed and, undoubtedly, polarizing. I can imagine that some critics will hail Hero for its uniqueness and its sense of primal urgency; but, its glaring flaws far outweigh its strengths, and I’m left disappointed.
(released November 25, 2016 on Iron Bonehead Productions)