BLODET - Death Mother (Cover Artwork)


Death Mother (2023)

Church Road Records

I do wonder if there will ever come a better, or at least more concise, way of describing the kind of ethereal, bleak, post-metal, oft-doom inflected collection of bands and artists who have made some of the best records of the last decade? Bands like Cult of Luna or Amenra are firmly in this group, but on occasion, artists like Chelsea Wolfe or King Woman feel like natural bedfellows, despite making quite a different noise. I know that for a brief period the term ‘death gospel’ was bandied around, but as far as I could make out, that was just a lazy way of grouping together a number of female artists, most of whom had quite disparate styles. The fact that the term had been coined before, for a different style of music, didn’t help either.

I’m musing on this style of music for what I suspect is a pretty obvious reason. Whereas my social media was awash with it a few years ago, it seems to have dropped off very slightly. It could just be my eye has been drawn to other areas of the landscape, in fairness. Either way, I think there might be an element of me having been really ready for a record of this ilk at this point. So to make explicit the implicit, BLODET are a band who trade in textures and styles not particularly influenced by the mainstream. The songs are often long, (up to 15 mins on this record) but that complete lack of interest in typical structures serves the band well. And to be clear, this isn’t their first rodeo. They’ve been around for 9 years at this stage. It’s just that their gestation period for a record is proportional to their song lengths, it would seem. Maybe as a bi-product of that lack of urgency, a sense of comfort and authenticity flows through what BLODET do on this record. Which, sadly, is not always the case when bands operate in the ‘post’-adjacent genres. Whereas some bands or artists seemingly lose their purpose when it comes to creating long-form music, BLODET give the sense that not only is it absolutely necessary for them to utilise longer running times, but that it has likely never really occurred to them to aim for anything more bite-sized for the most part.

As you would expect for an album of this type, listening actively and with good headphones or speakers reap the best rewards. There is a pretty clear seam of Scandi folk influence that permeates what BLODET do as well, so in terms of the sonic dynamics, you’re treated to the full gamut from vast, tsunami waves of pummelling guitars, to pure, porcelain cleanliness and dissonant harmonics, heavily slathered in delay and reverb. It’s also worth making clear that unlike the Cult of Luna’s or Amenra’s of this world, BLODET utilise exclusively clean vocals from Hilda Heller. Her voice is self-assured but also carries a somber tone. There are times when she opens her lungs fully and what emanates is something akin to the kind of choral effect which directors of historical epics tend to favour (albeit with less histrionics). Again, the performance feels utterly assured. Confident, but not flamboyant. But do I sometimes wish there was the occasional moment of more unbridled abandon? Perhaps.

The gentle pacing and delivery that characterises a number of tracks only hammers home how uninterested BLODET are with hitting any of the ‘heavy music’ tropes. “Lead Me Home” for example, maintains a consistent pace and flow throughout it’s 6 and a half minutes, with the finale simply being a repetition of the riff that has run the course of most of the song, yet the intensity continues to increase almost imperceptibly for a long time, surely inviting some sort of crescendo, but the band are not going to be drawn into doing what you might expect. In the case of “Without/Within”, arguably the album’s centrepiece at over 15 minutes long, there are (as you would expect) several discernible segments to the song, but blended together perfectly into a sort of mini-concerto that carries you along on wave after wave of melancholic surges and swells. In spite of myself however, I did find myself wanting a real dam-break of a moment to truly tip the song over the edge. Am I a philistine? Possibly.

So whether or not there will ever be a new genre label for this kind of stuff is irrelevant. There will always be people who are drawn to it, be that artists or listeners. The power that is wielded by some of the other bands in this scene is well-documented. BLODET do something a bit different. There is incredible beauty in what they produce. It’s an unsettling sort of beauty, but beautiful it remains. Where other bands in the same bracket might like to go for the Silence Of The Lambs approach; creeping dread, escalating malignancy, capped off with a big pay-off, BLODET are happy with staring into your soul and allowing you, or gently encouraging you even, to experience the horror of your own existence without the need to bring force to bear. Subtlety is a key word here. That’s not to say BLODET don’t have force at their disposal, but they use it sparingly. One might argue too sparingly, even. But then am I criticising them for the very thing I’m also most impressed by? I think I am. But this record is very good whether you agree with that impulse or not.