It’s no secret that black metal as a genre is full of stale predictability. Rife with formulaic bands willing to comfortably tread paths blazed decades ago, it’s easy to become bored and write black metal off as a dying art. Norwegian one-man BM entity Furze, lead by the enigmatic Woe J. Reaper, is certainly not one of the acts to regurgitate the tremelo-riffing, blasting, boombox-recorded tropes many bands cling to like a blood-stained security blanket. “Reaper Subconscious Guide,” Furze’s fourth full-length album, is a welcome rarity – a black metal record with personality.
A self-proclaimed “birthday card” to 1970s Black Sabbath, “RSG” is as much a twisted and strange doom metal album as it is a black metal one. With slow tempos and nary a blast beat to be found, chunky, bluesy riffs and sneered clean vocals, other Scandinavian Sabbath-heads like Reverend Bizarre come to mind, but this still sounds like nothing else out there. Sure, like many metal bands – black or otherwise – Reaper wears his influences on his sleeve – Bathory, Darkthrone, Celtic Frost/Hellhammer, and of course Sabbath – but as in previous Furze albums a distinct sense of “playfulness” is detectable. That’s right, a playful black/doom album. Still this ain’t no party album, it’s just certainly not as grim and humorless as 99% of BM (newer Darkthrone making up the other 1% of that equation!).
Strange instruments crop up – you’ll hear plenty of glockenspiel, acoustic guitar and gong on this platter – whispered, chanting falsettos spring from the mix, and you really never know where the song will turn. Eschewing the two-riff-per-song minimalist approach, Reaper writes tunes with plenty of meat on their bones, and the songs actually sound different, each with its own atmosphere, from rocking to drugged-out, to eerie to almost bouncy. Admittedly, the instrumental tones occasionally sound strange and almost weak, but I tend to think this is intentional, an attempt to make the album more intimate – a real glimpse into the frazzled brain of Woe J. Reaper.
Some have leveled accusations of “joke band” at Furze, perhaps because Reaper’s bizarre, stream of consciousness liner notes and the sometimes off-the-wall aspects of the music itself could be misconstrued as attempts to satirize black metal or as ironic posturing. Such close-mindedness is not to be taken seriously. “Reaper Subconscious Guide” is a genuine piece of work, crafted with care and dedication to metal from a fellow who is probably just really fucking weird. Highly recommended!