Dean Blunt - Black Metal

by Rob Taylor Rating:8.5 Release Date:2014-11-11

Dean Blunt wilfully defies categorisation, taunting and challenging the listener not to perceive his art within any limited framework. The title of his album, Black Metal, seems a deliberate obfuscation. Nothing on the album approaches that sound.

The opener 'Lush', arrives in a wash of symphonic strings and ringing guitar. By the time Blunt's baritone enters, the disconnect that is insipid and stark is confusing. The chill session that follows '50 Cent' brings together mezzo soprano voice and Blunt's drollness in relaxed, even pleasant relief to the incongruity of 'Lush'.

'100' begins like an outtake from a George Harrison jam session, as the journeyman leads us further into the maze of styles which, in the most instant sense, segue into 'Heavy', with its repetitive synth-loop, bass and drum-machines. On this track, he sounds like Bill Callahan channeling Tricky, and its the best thing on the album thus far. 'Molly and Aquafina' is a gentle lullaby, with a minor chord off-scent which saves it from being twee, although it's a narrow thing.

If you were to stop there, you'd be doing yourself a momentary favour, as 'Forever', perhaps true to its name, meanders aimlessly in what some would say is a meditation on stasis and inertia, but I'll just call it turgid and uninteresting. It's far too obsessed with cheap backstage sound-effects, playing against a theme that never elevates. That's 13 minutes I'll never retrieve from the abyss which that song took me into unwillingly. The saxophone rides too close to Kenny G territory for my liking.

Still, the second half of the album takes the experimental line, and is altogether more compelling. 'X' begins with a guitar-line which might have been written for Sarod, infused with far eastern textures in its opening minutes, against the prevailing foghorn synth, which threads through other parts of Black Metal. It's a beautiful piece which contains lots of variants absent from anything else on the album to this point.

'Punk' and 'Country' deliberately steer away from expectations in a statement which seems too, well, blunt-forced for me. Still, the minimalist ragga of 'Punk' and the distorted avantism of 'Country' successfully convey experimental bewitchment. 'Hush' is a lovely interlude.

The album closer is a moody crackerjack. Ridley Scott might have used this in Blade Runner, had Harrison Ford seduced Darryl Hannah rather than eliminating her in spectacular fashion. This album is beguiling, frustrating, and really very good, even brilliant in parts. If it wasn't for 'Forever, I'd give it top marks.

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