Album Review: BELUS Apophenia
There aren't a lot of bands out there who properly understand black metal. That is to say, a lot of bands build off of bands who understand black metal but don't really take the foundational bitterness and sort of inherent evil that makes the genre so valuable along with them, and it means the music feels kind of vapid. It's a serious problem the genre is facing and one I have no idea how to fix, outside, of course, from bands like Belus. With wonderfully twisted vocals layered on top of riffs that crash upon you in the grand old Norwegian style there is something special and at times even transcendent about what Belus has been able to create here as we navigate the many layers the band offers and the unreal cities their soundscapes draw up before us. This is the sort of band you can't really just claim to 'get' you have to work for it, you have to spend time trying to understand it, and you have to delve into Lovecraftian realities to draw out meaning.
I love everything that is strangely comforting in the very stripped down sounds of Belus. It rapidly becomes clear that this band doesn't care what you think of them because they are driven by the sheer passion for this wonderfully obscure and cosmically dense music. Apophenia is an addictive listen because it speaks to a different time but couches it in certain aesthetics that feel very 2017. Nothing about this project feels like an attempt to be 'retro', rather this is a loving homage bringing back older ideas into the modern realm and remind us that not everything in black metal needs to be focused on 'trees 'n' shit' but instead can concentrate on grander, more frostbitten visions that carry us far away from home and punish us as we try and wrap our heads around them. The eldritch terror of Belus is mesmerizing and the fact that the production doesn't try to drown you but instead gives the listener room to breathe only serves to make Apophenia even more endearing.
Black metal is a really hard genre to do well and even a masterful band like Belus don't have all the answers. While the general concept of what they are doing fascinates me the execution isn't always there – and that's okay. In fact that's to be expected for a band like this, this is after all only their first full length. That being said – things are approached with a seriousness and an alacrity which proves to me this is more than just another group of people trying to dick around and play music they don't understand. Rather Belus is crafting bold new futures and wondering about what the future could hold for all of us that place stock in the genre. They are encouraging us to drive forward and their ethereal and meditative music is going to keep dweebs like me coming back for another hit. This is an intensely personal genre of music that we are dealing with, so when it touches the heart you had better sit up and pay attention.