Album Review: Dean Blunt – Black Metal 2

[Rough Trade; 2021]

Dean Blunt’s 2014 album Black Metal clocks in at 53-plus minutes and features 13 tracks, including the 13-minute “Forever”, a sprawling experiment in unsettling ambience. Blunt’s second Black Metal project, released seven years after the first, is less than half its predecessor’s length, many of the 10 tracks under two minutes in duration. The result is a compelling sequel that shows Blunt emotionally focused and sonically refined. Also, Blunt’s limited vocal range, evident on the latter half of BM1, is far from problematic on BM2; rather, the saying ‘less is more’ proves apt in this case, his forlorn and occasionally deadpan style occurring as a notable and winning signature.

The album opens with “VIGIL”, dramatic violin strokes complementing Blunt’s Rorschach storyline re: the fracture between a mother and son or two friends, seemingly as a result of the son or friend being imprisoned or killed. Joanne Robertson’s voice, integral to BM2 as it was to BM1, provides an etheric contrast to Blunt’s earthy baritone, recalling Marta Złakowska’s work on Tricky’s Fall to Pieces (one of 2020’s underrated albums). “MUGU” is a concise and pensive vignette, reverb-y atmospherics and loose beats echoing Blunt’s instrumental work with Inga Copeland in Hype Williams.

The more clangorous “SKETAMINE” spotlights a mix of explorative accents and volatile chords. The track includes BM2’s most poetic phrase, “a gun on the beach,” which operates as a central image, conflating the timelessness of nature and a universal symbol for the ubiquity of violence. Additionally, the image points to the way in which BM2 is founded on a confluence of grief and templatized machismo, the former frequently regarded as archetypically related to the feminine and associated in literature with water, generally, and the ocean, specifically. One might go as far as to say that BM2’s hybridizations are successful in large part for the way in which Blunt blends and balances yin and yang energies.

“NIL BY MOUTH” opens with a reference to LSD, the antihistamine CET, and the insecticide DDT, perhaps a wry revision of Christianity’s Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. “ZaZA” makes use of a twangy riff that brings to mind some of the guitar-heavy orientations on Hotep, Blunt’s 2017 release under the Blue Iverson moniker. The entire mix is intermittently run through a phase or pitch shifter, creating a surreal or psychedelic effect. “WOOSAH” is the album’s sole instrumental, a strummy acoustic guitar keeping tempo beneath a melodic synth line. The project ends with “the rot,” a blend of sweeping synths and trap-y beats, Robertson’s delicate voice again juxtaposed with Blunt’s deeper and more mournful delivery.

BM2 is what might be dubbed a ‘mood project’, the listener enrolled in dreamy tones, hypnotic textures, and intriguing obliquities more so than catchy melodies or choruses (though BM2 does in fact offer a sprinkling of conventional hooks). One often loses a sense of location and chronological time, transported into a sublime realm, Blunt reveling in understated craft, melancholic freedom, and undiluted authenticity.