The Brooklyn black metal scene has a penchant for off-kilter, nearly jazzy black metal. Almost as if there’s a competition between the drummers in the scene to thrust each other into new, unchartered territory using different stick techniques to affect the snare aspect of the blast beat. The result is a near break-beat style take on blast beats. It’s as groovy as it is bludgeoning as the pearlized tip of the drum stick frenetically bounces off the tightly tuned snare. Brooklyn’s newest blackened outfit (albeit with a hefty amount of doom thrown in) take this to near Geryon levels at times, an homage to Philadelphia’s Dysrhythmia. But, what primarily sets Belus apart from the others is their ability to twist the groovability dial to 11.
At other times, like on “Avarice,” the drumming becomes downright tribal–tom rolls accentuated with snare slaps as the guitar and bass melodically and ploddingly hammer out a drolling, traditional black metal riff. In a more military style, the opener, “Chasm,” leads snare-heavy with slaps and cracks punctuating a softly picked, harmonized guitar line overlaid in the mix. Snare rolls build and subside creating tension before the true nature of the band, a near progressive take on black metal, bursts through–dual growls from a distant plane of existence and straight-forward, swinging time signature clearly meant to knock the listener’s rhythmic equilibrium out of whack.
There are also maudlin moments, hence the doom references, like the opener of “Illusions.” A slowly and somberly picked melody created via the near classical arpeggio roll slowly into a sludgy, layered, near block or alt chord sounding grumble which precedes the oncoming storm of black metal. The vocals are distant, heavy with reverb by recording engineer and mixologist Nolan Voss (of Anicon and Pyrolatrous), creating an effect much akin to a storm rolling in across the plane with the guitar and bass representing thick clouds, the drums the rolling thunder and the vocals the wind propelling the storm. The following dissonance and heavy cymbal work seem to herald the dropping of precipitation as a quite precise bridge occurs, albeit muffled by an overall heaviness in the mix which retains a bit of rawness.
The gem on this album, which is really a gem lying among a field of diamonds, is “Omens.” Primarily a subdued track using many of the previous rhythm tactics to similar effect, it almost lulls the listener into the belief that this will be another rolling composition that circles a central rhythmic theme. But, unlike other compositions, “Omens” has utilizes near complete melodic, clean breakdowns and neck-snapping, standard time signature riffs to captivate. The result is a track that leans somewhat heavily on death metal influences while remaining wholly black.
Black metal is branching off into waves upon waves of the style. Plenty of bands and message boards and fans like to tout trve and kvlt methods–cassette tape recordings of live practice sessions, harsh artwork and unsettling pictures of threatening creatures in corpse paint overexposed as to hide any identity. Belus is on a much more progressive path, as are many bands in both the northeast and pacific northwest and that’s nothing to be knocked. The musicianship in Belus is on par with any other band out there and their compositional skills and confidence behind their risk-taking is immediately noticeable. Belus is not afraid of who they are, rather they celebrate it, pushing the compositions towards their strengths and ultimately creating a brand of black metal wholly their own, despite clear influences and competition.