The first thing I noticed about Belus was the drumming. Listen to how the drums practically skip over the melodic black metal riffing on “Chasm,” the opening track of the band’s debut album Apophenia. It’s a marvel of work, on par with the first time I heard someone like Brann Dailor explode on Remission or even (gulp) Lars play on And Justice for All. It immediately serves to move Belus apart from what the glut of other melodic black metal bands are doing, and makes Belus one of the best modern US black metal releases in some time.
They’re also one of the few black metal bands I’ve seen (Yellow Eyes is another) where their live show gets the songs across even better than the album. Apophenia comes from that particular strain of US/NYC metal virus spawning great music from the likes of Anicon, the aforementioned Yellow Eyes, and Black Anvil, among others. Mixing classic black metal and doom elements with disparate musical sensibilities like jazz, noise, and 20th century classical disruptions Belus works a lot of ideas and scope into weaving songs like the serpentine “Illusions” and the punishing “Psychosis” without sacrificing slower, methodical moments of repetition. Working off the classic trio format, there’s a great sense of individual contribution from each member, each track showing just how tightly knit the band is working together. By the time of “Equilibrium” you feel like you’ve been through the ringer with the push and pull of the band’s dynamics.
Great debut album, great band. I had the chance to see the band play live in their hometown and it brought home just how much Belus have to offer beyond the studio. This is a must have if you’re into modern black metal that doesn’t suck.
* Apophenia is the tendency to mistakenly perceive connections and meaning between unrelated things. Make of that what you will.