Band: Bull Of Apis Bull Of Bronze
Album: The Fractal Ouroboros
Label: Vita Detestabilis Records
Genre: Black Metal
Release Date: December 21st, 2023
For Fans Of: Panopticon, Liturgy, Victory Over The Sun
Everything about Bull Of Apis Bull Of Bronze confounds and defies. Their 2019 debut Offerings Of Flesh And Gold contains excessive music, with tracks eclipsing 20 minutes and featuring big emotional swings throughout. It took four years to receive the band’s follow-up, The Fractal Ouroboros. The band’s fire has not diminished in that time. While this record has some issues holding it down, this black metal/post-black/atmospheric/antifascist/apparently occult band makes music that is intriguing and intense.
The Fractal Ouroboros starts with nothing, and then stays there for a long time. A solid two-minute crescendo takes up the opening moments before the drums finally enter the scene. It takes almost three minutes for the song to finally bring out the guitars, and over three and a half minutes before the barking vocals signal the end of the opening phrase. This entire, stretched out crescendo succeeds at heightening tension and putting the listener in a state of discomfort.
Once the dam finally bursts, the music on opening track “Trophy” settles into something more typical, but only barely. Black metal shrieks dip into spoken word sections and back out as the guitars play a repeated rhythm that doesn’t qualify as a riff with occasional flittering movements above the foundation. The whole thing is dramatic, absurd, and most importantly earned. Bull Of Apis Bull Of Bronze pull off this opening track by forcing the listener through an atypical but meaningful beginning, similar to Kayo Dot’s Hubardo in style but not substance. At around the seven minute mark, the music collapses in on itself before building up over substantial periods of time to another furious conclusion. The whole thing is exhausting, dark, and satisfying.
I just spent a third of the review on a seventh of the album, so you should be able to guess what follows: This songwriting approach continues for the rest of the album. Some songs such as “Our Overt Apocalypse” stay in heightened distress for longer than others, and some like “Annihilation” take that opening crescendo and stretch it out even further. The basic idea remains the same throughout The Fractal Ouroboros.
Emotional payoffs as large as those delivered by Bull Of Apis Bull Of Bronze require these long, over-the-top setups. When tracks such as “A History Of Cages And Broken Bones” slow down and maintain a less frantic, more depressed pace, the spiritual weight makes you want to sink into the floor and lose consciousness. This seventy-plus minute album spends every moment building to a collapse and then sitting in the ruins.
While these big moments on The Fractal Ouroboros maintain their excellence throughout, the paths taken to get to them feel wasted at times. I mentioned that “Annihilation” has an opening crescendo that’s even longer than the one that starts the record. It also starts from nothing. Bull Of Apis Bull Of Bronze lose some of their impact when I start to get the feeling that the band has just strapped me to a wheel and is pounding me into the ground on a repetitive schedule. While the opening passage on “Annihilation” builds to a very different place than the opening of “Trophy”, the end result is a lot of time spent without really going anywhere. “Our Overt Apocalypse” also falls into this category. The riffs at the bursting apex of the record hypnotize you in their swirling laments right up until they lose their effectiveness and continue on for too long.
Everything on The Fractal Ouroboros taking forever is the record’s biggest strength and weakness, and it is also inextricable from the DNA of the record. For the first time in a long time I actually tried to look at the lyrics. As you might have gathered by the name of the album, Bull Of Apis Bull Of Bronze have aligned their musical style and lyrical content more or less perfectly. While I do believe that this alignment would not have been hurt at all by moving off of musical ideas before wearing them out. Saying “Change is impossible because it has never happened” doesn’t justify not changing a riff until finding the repetition interesting is also impossible.
Bull Of Apis Bull Of Bronze have made something difficult, painful, and seemingly alone. They chose to release The Fractal Ouroboros on the darkest day of the year. Their message ends in hope without dismissing suffering. As above, this record has some issues holding it down, both musical and societal. It remains authentic and powerful in the face of these issues. Even though the music twists in avoidably detrimental ways, the passion and cohesion of The Fractal Ouroboros are worth the time they demand.
- A History of Cages and Broken Bones
- Suffocate O Earthen Lungs; They Now Lungs of Ash
- Liberation Ritual
- Our Overt Apocalypse
- Ekstasis, Enstasis, and the Fractal Ouroboros
Total Playing Time: 1:14:34