The fact that Bolt Gun are not currently plastered on the covers of the world’s metal media is a genuine travesty, but it is definitely an understandable one. The Australian trio’s latest LP is a single track (albeit split into two parts) focusing on a gloomy historical subject – the existential horror of Stalinist Russia. It may be one of the least commercially viable albums ever released, but in the world of underground metal that means jack shit, and Man Is Wolf To Man is a poignant masterpiece to those with the patience (and spare time) to delve into its expansive sound.
The thematic subject of the album gives its harrowingly moving moments real context, but without it you could be forgiven for thinking there was a sci-fi vibe afoot here, which is down to the cinematic scope of Bolt Gun’s multi-faceted approach. Though their sound has been defined as black metal, a fitting subgenre to take on the distressing subject matter, the sheer ambition of the album calls for something a little more inventive than 45 minutes of blastbeats and shrill yells. Instead, Man Is Wolf To Man’s relies on black metal almost solely in its most severe moments, drawing from its intensity to create blizzardous moments of terror. Its ambient soundscapes are closer to the modern definition of post-metal, but even calling it that does their sound a disservice.
The album’s longevity often relies heavily on the monotonous nature of funeral doom, drawing apt comparisons to Bell Witch’s recent Mirror Reaper, but perhaps its most creative and unique edge comes from the synth-work, which provides atmospheric flourishes throughout. At times serene and at others imposingly sinister, the synths add to the album’s narrative flow in a way that often reminds of Vangelis’ original Blade Runner soundtrack. This dystopian/post-apocalyptic aura that radiates from Man Is Wolf To Man is unsurprising when you consider that the band took guidance from Konstantin Lopushansky’s A Museum Visitor – a piece of information that really explains the album’s desolate feel.
It’ll come as no surprise to the label’s fans that this is another Art As Catharsis release. The Australian label’s output is a never-ending list of wonderfully weird artists, from the psychedelic to the avant-garde and beyond, and Bolt Gun fit immaculately well onto that roster. Man Is Wolf To Man is another colossal underground metal album in a year that has been lined with them, but it’s to the scene’s detriment that it has not received the same hype as others. Nevertheless, commercial fame is not the be-all-end-all in the world of progressive extreme metal, and capturing the palpable feeling of a land plagued by fear and without hope is one masterful achievement in itself.
Man Is Wolf To Man is out now on Art As Catharsis. Get your copy here.
Words: George Parr