Dean Blunt’s Black Metal is a contradiction of terms. It is at once a candid and personal assault, as well as operating through shape-shifting mechanisms. It is as enveloping as it is impossible to pin down.
It is in this relationship between the intimate and the elusive that it stakes its claim to representing the best of our generation’s musical landscape. Sonically it bears resemblance to much of our zeitgeist, through reverberation and muttered vocals Blunt recalls the zeniths of alternative guitar music. Yet, through the album’s disorienting second half, it also presents the vast swells brought to popular music by the growing presence of electronic music. Cuts like 50 Cent supply gorgeous late-night laments, characterised by frank lyrics that are punctuated with Hip-Hop colloquialisms. That is not to say this is anywhere close to resembling a Hip-Hop record, and the laziness of a musical press so keen to refer to Blunt as a Hip-Hop artist reflects our seeming unwillingness to accept him as something truly new: a musician prepared to utilise everything. Only this is not for gimmicky displays of versatility, rather his sporadic influences come from an instinctual urge to engage with the environment.
This calls into prominence perhaps the most important factor of the record, Blunt himself. Much like his album he is not prepared to stall on one genre, or even one moniker. It would be a fool’s errand to attempt to fully understand his motives, but Black Metal certainly suggests he wishes to behave in a more purely artistic way than any of his peers. Forgoing any obligation to branding, he writes music that leaps between stark sensibilities as the mood fits. As a character in the press and the industry he has been capitalised on as a prankster, but surely we can save buzzwords like that for Mac Demarco? Blunt is not pranking, rather he is reacting to a cultural and social climate that makes very little sense. Why then should an album be linear or rational?
The reason Black Metal should be considered the most important album of 2014 is because it supplies two important components in breathtaking and fully realised form. Firstly it captures and questions a moment. In a moment wherein our musicians are faces before they are sounds, Blunt chooses to disappear completely behind a cloud of fog. In doing this he provides the second crucial component. Track after track of beautiful, brutal, and brilliant original music. Music that serves to either respond to an entire climate or to simply soundtrack a cigarette spent thinking about somebody. It is both everything and just something, topical and timeless.
Words: Angus Harrison