Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Bone Awl

There is a famous adage about Bolt Thrower in some circles. It goes by saying that Bolt Thrower basically wrote one riff, but that one riff happens to be perfect so they've made an entire career (a highly successful one) out of it. I don't know how much stock I put into the idea, but there's something to be said about perfect formulas. If a football team draws up a play that leads to a touchdown every time, why would a coach change it up when the name of the game is to score points? That is not to say that every band should try to hone in on a perfect formula and repeat it ad nauseum. Audiences, much like defenses, are apt to figure a band out eventually.

For California's Bone Awl, they perfected a formula in the realm of raw black metal. Utilizing a d-beat influence and taking cues from raw black metal heroes Ildjarn, Bone Awl began in 2002 and have continued on (albeit marginally) to this day. The band is a two piece featuring He Who Crushes Teeth AKA Marco Del Rio (of Raspberry Bulbs fame) on drums & He Who Gnashes Teeth on guitar, vocals, and bass (in studio). For their live shows, the band has outsourced a bass player, often using Eddie Volahn to fill the role.

The band's decade plus career has produced an onslaught of releases. Almost twenty. This kind of output for one band in the realm of black metal at such a torrid pace is unheard of. It is almost two releases a year. The most remarkable fact about Bone Awl's output is the quality. They never dramatically change their style or try to go beyond their own self-imposed mandate.

Bone Awl's music has two components to it. First, the animalistic howls by He Who Gnashes Teeth. There is nothing emotional or articulate about it as much it is viscerally unhinged. The vocals are coming from a place beyond reason and happiness. What's more, unlike most black metal bands, Bone Awl doesn't seek to capture some kind of supernatural element through their music. Everything you hear about Bone Awl is real. Mental instability, the inevitable failure of life, and an air of mystery that speaks more to Nietzsche than it does Lovecraft. Second, the music conducted by the duo. Gnashes' bass & guitar combine to create anxiety. There is a sense of uneasiness to them. The pace and the tone Bone Awl uses make it seem as if something is after them right now (to this point, perhaps they are a little Lovecraftian). The only thing keeping the sanity in the room is He Who Crushes Teeth's drums snapping and changing the pace of the song, as if to tell Gnashes "shut up about it and let's move on to something else" only for Gnashes to delve into another nook of panic and Crushes having to do it all over again. Consequently, there's a lot going on in any given Bone Awl song.

On its face, for a listener, they might think Bone Awl is a stock band. Simply another d-beat band utilizing a flavor of the week gimmick in raw black metal. For the more initiated, listening to Bone Awl is an interesting psychological study. Each Bone Awl song is its own individual psychotic episode. A psychotic episode exists as its own entity. No two episodes are the same. This fact is what makes Bone Awl unique. The songs sound the same but they aren't. To do so at the prolific level Bone Awl was able to makes it doubly remarkable. In the realm of raw black metal, they are at the genre's pantheon with Ildjarn and contemporary Strongblood.

Included here is (to the best of my knowledge) their entire discography. Also included are two live sets.

1 comment:

  1. Really nice post here, thanks a lot! It actually looks like you wrote it during some BA's rehearsal looking at the guys or smth, damn great. Indeed the best thing I found on the internet this year so far. x