Bull of Apis Bull of Bronze – The Fractal Ouroboros (Fiadh Productions)

Monday, 8th January 2024
Rating: 9.5 / 10

Let’s face it – the end of the year is historically known for being sparse in new album releases. Blindly following that line of thought can be a cautionary tale. In 2022, Our Loss is Total dropped I in mid-December, which was a heck of a slice of ambitious black metal that didn’t get nearly enough attention, probably due to when it was released. This recently concluded year was no different – we’re looking at you, Crust – and our subject here, Bull of Apis Bull of Bronze.

The Colorado-based trio first arrived with Offerings of Flesh and Gold in 2019, serving as an eye-opening introduction to a band willing to not only push boundaries, but obliterate them entirely. Their singular morph of avant-garde black metal and ambient music was a breath of fresh air to those who found it, and admittedly, this scribe only caught wind of them a few years after said debut dropped. However, when album number two, The Fractal Ouroboros, was announced, it quickly shot up my list of must-listen albums. But, we had to wait until December 21 to lay our ears on it, as we didn’t have a promo. The agony! The wait, however, was worth its weight in gold bronze.

A word of warning, for those used to the typical 30-40 minute album; this bull is a hearty 74 minutes and change. Don’t allow that fact to dissuade for a millisecond. The Fractal Ouroboros uses every bit of it to staggering effect, setting a mood that’s concurrent throughout. Proceedings begin on a somber yet tense note on “Trophy,” with slow drums and synths building until a swath of buzzing tremolos arrive to swarm with purpose. The tonality reminds of Portal to a degree, while being quite different in scope and construction. How guitarist Athshean utilizes tremolos is certainly unlike we’ve heard; creating a chaotic yet calculated overwhelming attack on the senses. Listen closely, you’ll discover many layers to be peeled back – from clean guitars, to varied leads – all filled out by the versatile drum work of Yaeth that is the backbone of the band’s sound. Not to mention the vocals of Achaierai, ranging from anguished screams, low register croons, and spoken word pieces that are diverse and emotive.

Weaving intricately to a slower, almost doom-like pace is “A History of Cages and Broken Bones,” while an ominous ambient/drone type quality dominates “Annihilation.” These sort of tracks are well placed, giving a breather from the breakneck pace of their more bombastic material. No track epitomizes this harmonious balance like “Suffocate O Earthen Lungs; They Now Lungs of Ash.” The heavy portions are spellbinding and merciless. Guitars scratching and clawing, while impassioned screams bring the intensity to critical mass; to hypnotic clean guitars drawing out a feeling of unease to close the song. “Our Overt Apocalypse” has a similar scope, though constructed differently to no less effect, with the song beginning slowly and traversing back and forth between methodical riffs and concurrent sobering soundscapes. Finale “Ekstasis, Enstasis, and the Fractal Ouroboros” is a clinic in songwriting and guitar dexterity, smoothly ebbing and flowing to an eerie conclusion.

This album is a challenging listen, but those up to it will absolutely reap the rewards. Intense, sullen, and immersive, Bull of Apis Bull of Bronze have no doubt realized much of their seemingly limitless potential. Their stance against fascist ideologies is a poignant and timely one that raises the stakes of the band’s lyrical content, fitting well within the complexities of their musical endeavors. Altogether, what they provide is a raw black metal force of nature that grips tightly and won’t let up. The Fractal Ouroboros rips apart both conventions and our eardrums with a conscience.

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