The Fear Goes On: Dean Blunt’s Black Metal 2

Seven years after the first instalment, Dean Blunt’s *Black Metal* sequel makes a gorgeous addition to the oeuvre of Hackney’s master art-pop prankster, finds Eden Tizard

Yeah, Black Metal 2 could be longer. When you wait seven years for a follow up, you’d hope it’d be longer than 23 minutes. Not only that but Dean Blunt announced it over three years ago, and given the impromptu, blemish heavy sound of his, it’s unlikely he’s spent the time ironing out every crease of this XS garment. By sonics alone couldn’t Skin Fade, Wahalla, or Soul On Fire just as easily have been called Black Metal 2?

But since last week’s (re)announcement, I’ve fallen prey to something you should never do with Blunt: wild speculation. What does the Dr. Dre font mean? Wait a minute, 2001 came out seven years after the The Chronic. What could this signify? The stars are aligning, he’s got a master plan.

In contrast with its predecessor, Black Metal 2 is anti-dynamism. There’s far less formal fuckery. It’s a headstate record, all gully no peak, with swells of intensity that then ebb away. You’ll find nothing like the brash shoegaze of ‘Heavy’, an avalanche of crystal chimes and debris. What’s it sound like then? Well, it sounds a fair bit like some other songs on 2014’s Black Metal, that same blurring of samples and instrumentation. A track like ‘100’, which was road music for the A107, blissed out indie with a current of Hackney dread.

"Here we are, back on the guitar," sings Blunt on ‘SEMTEX’, while ‘VIGIL’ has the same midi strings that gave The Redeemer its shoddy grandeur, and sees the return of long time collaborator Joanne Robertson, contributing guitar twangs and vocals. There’s a potent presence of Mazzy Star, the dubby dream world of AR Kane, also Felt and The Pastels – the socially acceptable alternative to C-86 type jangle. They’ll even steer dangerously close to emblems of US slackerdom, Kurt Vile and the like.

A well known tradition in all these kinds of music is the hiding of depression behind jaunty tunes, but on Black Metal 2‘s ‘DASH SNOW’, Blunt sounds properly dejected over the summery instrumental. It’s tears and shit cocktails on a grotty garden patio. All aftermath, contemplation.

By now we’re all aware that Blunt’s reputation precedes him. The ‘p word’ has been churned out ad nauseum, but in spite of all this, perhaps it’s more useful to think of him as a communicator, as opposed to an unreliable obfuscator. He deals in psychic terrain, the way the mind interacts with and stakes out its own reality. His lyrics are simple because words can only go so far.

In an interview with The Wire, Blunt spoke on his love of hip hop, how most rappers don’t make it but have this belligerence to live life on their own terms. "It’s the most positive step you can take," he told David Keenan. "How else do you fucking live with this world but through that kind of lens?"

In that same interview he condemned the "black appropriation of dead white tropes," which given the sound of Black Metal, many took to be an example of Dean trolling. But perhaps it needn’t be a contradiction. Perhaps he’s implying that such appropriations come with more complications than one might think, and can’t be repurposed wholesale without the baggage of their original context.

Who knows? Assumption of intent is trickier with Dean Blunt than most. What I can say is that this new record is a gorgeous addition to the singular reality he makes available to us, and it’s the final third that’s key.

‘ZaZa’ feels like it’ll be a by-numbers, paisley clad plodder, but then gives way to this sublime, barely there psychedelia, with subtle lysergic skips and warps, summoning the altered state of a summer eclipse. ‘WOOSAH’ has these regal horns and guitar strums that recall Spirit or Pentangle, a lush piece of night time pastoralism. But things really escalate on ‘the rot’, a song that’s Scott Walker-lavish. It’s not the horny pomp of ‘Jackie’, more in line with his solemn late ’60s work. Blunt is typically elliptical, half glimpses into a private place. "I told you to leave, but you never do it, so the fear is going on." In response Robertson sings this beautiful passage…

And I guess it’ll rot away

And I found you here on another day

You were waiting for an old dream

Found you on another day…

All is spoken, after that

There’s a desert left behind

You’re a stranger in a dark room

Holding on to someone new

Are they ruminating on a failed relationship? Or is this another of Blunt’s preoccupations: a breaking away from the past into something new, undefined?

Black Metal 2 ends at an uncertain crossroads, while sonically the record is perhaps Blunt’s most easy to engage with. Will the album be seen as a much belated afterthought? Who cares? Leave chronic ranking to the Rob ‘top five’ Gordons of this world.

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