There’s something refreshing about art that embraces subtlety in the modern era, and it’s this knack for precision over power, minimalism over maximalism, that makes Bolt Gun’s music so richly rewarding. 2017’s Man Is Wolf To Man was concerned with very specific unimaginable horror, namely that of Stalinist Russia – by comparison, Begotten seems sedate, more concerned with the existential dread of being human than something more physical. This record is a cinematic journey, more multifaceted than its predecessor in terms of tone and atmosphere, but no less impressive in its ability to fully commit to a singular sonic vision.
The band have been dubbed both doom and black metal, but either tag is limiting. The band’s primary touchstones are noise, ambient and, undoubtedly, the world of film scores – something exemplified by guitarist Jon Vayla’s cinematic solo album – but they use this basis to expand into a range of styles. Occasionally, the record feels formless, but it also drifts into more rhythmic territories as a steady beat and atmospheric guitars come into play. Here, the release drifts from noise to post-rock, as Bolt Gun bide their time, waiting to strike and yet never quite taking that killer blow.
Begotten unfurls gradually, favouring the hypnotic qualities of repetition. This gives proceedings an ominous weight, an inescapable tension – like life itself, it feels as if anything could happen, big or small. Eventually, the release does move into metallic territory, as blackened shrieks soar over booming percussion. Much like some sections of The Body’s work, these passages are unsettling in their unfamiliarity, sounding akin to metal but never quite resembling one particular subgenre or style. Some metal-adjacent acts that adopt the vague “experimental” moniker find themselves resorting to the familiar steady-build to a heavy crescendo, but any peaks and troughs here don’t manifest as bouts of extremity, rather as emotional highs and lows. If a riff is what’s needed, then the band aren’t afraid to deliver, but this is never metal for the sake of it.
It’s a perfect example of how to take influence from your inspirations without stepping on their toes. Bolt Gun’s music isn’t afraid to wear its influences on its sleeve, but their various touchstones, from Hans Zimmer and Planning For Burial to second-wave black metal and Einstuerzende Neubauten, coalesce into a distinct sound that’s all their own. It’s one that’s enveloping, thrilling and vastly impressive.
Following up an opus like Man Is Wolf To Man was never going to be an easy task. But in confronting the horror, the mundanity and, at times, the beauty of life, Bolt Gun have crafted something more relatable to each and every one of us. Rather than transporting you to another time and place, this record takes place here and now, forcing you to confront yourself for better or worse.
Words: George Parr