All Fours

Screamo’s not a dirty word

dB Rating: 8/10

Release Date: April 14th, 2015
Label: Profound Lore

“When she was a child, Marie decided to live her life as a horse.” So begins opener “At Night,” a portrait of a relationship that shifts from equine roleplay to a degradation Marie’s lover insists is “nauseating, but necessary.” Written with haunting attention to detail, Bay Area black metal scribes Bosse-de-Nage spend All Fours ruminating on the choices made and paths taken by unreliable narrators in surreal vignettes that channel Donald Barthelme’s fables.

As the tales on their fourth LP unfold, Bosse-de-Nage guide mathy post-rock, shoegaze and screamo into the shadow cast by the pillar of black metal. From the somber crescendo of “Industry of Distance” to the Slint-like muted menace of “Washerwoman,” ideas collide into each other like the cover’s intersecting text. Riffs stitch one moment to the next like intricate needlework, as the standout drumming performance conjures images of sweaty studio floors and blistered fingers. While All Fours loses propulsion as it nears its denouement—“In a Yard Somewhere” and “To Fall Down” don’t match the captivating desperation of the album’s first two acts—the throbbing rhythms and tormented vocals linger long after the record ends.

Three years after their split EP with Deafheaven, the same detractors will line up and say this ain’t black metal. Call it post-black metal, post-whatever. All Fours is a journey—ending with an ascent up “The Most Modern Staircase”—where vocalist/lyricist Bryan Manning challenges complacency and dismisses simple answers to difficult questions while sharing his darkest thoughts with teeth bared. That sounds like black metal to me.

—Sean Frasier
Review originally printed in the June 2015 issue (#128).