Taking a page from Fluisteraars and Deafheaven, the cover art of Blurr Thrower’s debut full-length Les voûtes stands in stark contrast to the abrasive and hypnotic material that lies within. Formed in 2014 as a solo project that’s remained bathed in mystery since the two-song EP Les avatars du vide dropped in 2018, Blurr Thrower emphasizes sprawling songwriting that brings the fury and atmosphere of black metal from the Pacific Northwest as well as elements reminiscent of both the French and Dutch variants of the genre. With the material only offering short reprieves from the dense layers of distortion and tortured vocals it can be a lot to take in, but this release is a significant step forward for this group.
What distinguishes Blurr Thrower from some of the Cascadian black metal bands is how little warning you get before the instrumentation explodes into a flurry of powerful blasting and tense atmosphere. Opener “Cachot” launches directly into its attack a mere twenty seconds in, and if you’ve heard Les avatars du vide you’ll likely notice how much fuller and the sound is on its predecessor. Everything is significantly louder and it feels like each instrument wants to rip through your eardrums with maximum force as they form together into a swirling whirlwind of sound. With the exception of the third track, the majority of the album emphasizes longer arrangements that emphasize repeated leads and subtle twists and turns, bringing to mind bands like Wolves in the Throne Room and Turia at certain points. But where those groups often had a much colder tonality Blurr Thrower has one that feels much darker and twisted in how it seeks to hypnotize the listener, which suits a project that’s focused on exploring neurosis, fears, and anxiety. There is some reprieve from the blasting at specific parts of Les voûtes, particularly on “Fanes” which spends much of its run-time exploring droning instrumentation that is just as unnerving and tense as a lot of dark ambient. Compared to the EP there’s a lot more variation to the songwriting that helps the material to have an impact, and the final song “Amnios” weaves in beautiful and somber melodies over top of the pummeling base to truly stunning results. Admittedly some of the material still has a very familiar sound though, and while this is a big step forward that kept me coming back for more, there remains some room for Blurr Thrower to continue to develop its own identity.
The instrumentals may give some breaks from the abrasiveness, but the vocals remain as tortured sounding as possible for the entirety of the album. On “Cachot” they come through in the form of high pitched screams and howls that are so raw that they feel like they can cut directly through your skin, channeling the same type of sorrow and anger you might hear from depressive black metal. Blurr Thrower does shake things up throughout the material though, as in addition to some lower ranges there are also some cleaner chants that still manage to sound just as intense. These types of vocals do tend to be a bit of an acquired taste for some metal fans, but they work well within the context of the album and only make it that much more impactful.
Blurr Thrower’s full-length debut is filled with raw and tense emotions, coming through with torrents of abrasive layers that seek to sweep the listener away with their hypnotic blasts and haunting interludes. While there are still some elements that blend together over repeat listens and the sound still treads very closely to some of the band’s influences, this release finds them progressing significantly. The hints at dark ambient seem like an element that could potentially benefit further expansion, but regardless of where Blurr Thrower chooses to go this is a strong effort that is worth seeking out. Fans of bands like Ash Borer, Wolves in the Throne Room, and Turia (to name a few), don’t let this one pass you by. Les voûtes is available from Les Acteurs de L'Ombre Productions.
-Review by Chris Dahlberg
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