There’s no point in dancing around it – doom/drone is about as niche as niche gets. Unless you’re a serious enthusiast of bands like Earth (early material) and Sunn O))), it’s very likely that Black Boned Angel haven’t been a band on your radar, and with their latest (and last) opus, that isn’t very likely to change. The big catch with the doom/drone genre is that it almost requires you to forget what the band is playing and instead focus on what it sounds like; the actual textures, the way they flow into one another to create a cohesive, crushing experience. This is what made Black Boned Angel rather special, because despite being every bit as monotonous as every other band in the genre, the guitar tone and their attention to building tension made their stuff an absolutely enthralling experience, no matter what kind of music listener you are. The absolutely brilliant Verdun, their 2009 album, is one of the darkest and most cryptic albums I’ve ever heard simply because of its ability to build tension. It makes absolutely everything so much more impactful, and that impact in turn makes everything seem much heavier and larger.
Needless to say, Black Boned Angel packs a sound that’s absolutely gargantuan. This isn’t just a continuation of what they’ve been doing for years, though. There are several things that make this album somewhat of a departure. Where albums like Verdun and The Endless Coming Into Life have some of the darkest, most unforgiving atmospheres in the genre, The End is more multi-faceted in that all of the aspects of the music don’t converge into just one atmosphere or one conclusion. The mix of darkness and light almost conflicts, but doesn’t. The intensity makes it as sinister as ever, but the atmosphere is more akin to something lighter and vaguely hopeful. It’s not unlike the direction Corrupted took on their most recent output, keeping the same instrumentation, but taking it in a more uplifting direction without sacrificing what made them so special. Though these songs flow more than they build, the tone and atmosphere never gives way and it’s almost always enthralling.
Though much of Black Boned Angel‘s music historically relied on build and release dynamics – that’s not quite the case here. The End is split into three parts, and the first throws you right into the meat of it with a gut-wrenching scream and a massive, distorted guitar chord. It’s almost immediately apparent that this album is far less sparse than their other works, with recognizable riffs and structures instead of mere celebrations of tone and tension. Whether this is better or not is entirely up to personal opinion, but there’s absolutely no doubt that they manage it at a very pleasing level, especially considering the average song length is 20 minutes. It’s obviously best thought of as one continuous piece, but each is fairly distinct in terms of tone. Part One being the most familiar of the three, the unrelenting distorted riffs and screams littered around the mix spread unease as the huge drums prove to be the perfect vessel for the wall of noise.
Part Two is the quietest of the pieces, the sound of uneasy choirs ringing in the background, akin to the latter half of Verdun, serving as the perfect bittersweet ambience after the onslaught that was Part One. This doesn’t last forever as the guitars come back, while the drums are absent, very much sounding like Sunn O)))‘s work on White 1. When the drums return, the influence from Black Boned Angel‘s work with Nadja really comes into play with the subtle, sweeter choir vocals that ring over the chaos with the unusually bright synths accompanying every drum hit. The stark turn in atmosphere is most in play here, but since they only come in half an hour into the album it gives you more than enough time to adjust and start to appreciate what they’re going for. The contrast between the first two tracks is very pleasing, but cannot prepare you for the glorious culmination that is Part Three – which brings every aspect of the early tracks to a brilliant conclusion befitting the last piece ever written as Black Boned Angel. It’s truly one of the most rewarding experiences they’ve ever brought to the table.
The End is highly addicting. For those familiar with Black Boned Angel‘s work, I’d be surprised if you don’t find this to be a proper and satisfying end to one of the best drone projects ever to grace our speakers. Though quite accessible, that doesn’t make it any less rewarding or enjoyable and this will hopefully help assure their legacy won’t be forgotten or ignored. Highly recommended to all who enjoy drone or doom metal, this is a brilliant ending. The Angel is dead, long live the Angel.