- Dean Blunt has held quite the poker face. Several years into his career, he's still smoke and mirrors to most people. Even The Redeemer, which dealt with brutally honest heartbreak, could feel impenetrable, like it was keeping us at arm's length. Blunt's sampling style is part of that. The borders between borrowed and original material are completely non-existent, and the dreamlike feel of his music means it doesn't fit into any one style or era. Black Metal (named for the material, not the genre) isn't different in that regard, but it's more sanguine, bringing us in for something more private and profound.
While The Redeemer was often wound up and defensive, Black Metal is emotionally all over the map. Blunt's baritone is more expressive than ever, dripping with derision, bristling with indifference and quivering with sadness. His gravelly command "stay out of it" on "Lush" is serious; on "Heavy," he sounds like he's trying to stave off a breakdown. "Punk" and "50 Cent" are both acerbic dub tracks, and the latter is especially biting, broaching themes of crime and police while Joanne Robertson yowls and moans. She plays a major role on Black Metal, drizzling guitar over a sunny Pastels sample on "100" and sinking into the couch alongside Blunt on the haunting "Molly & Aquafina." The latter unravels with every passing measure, as their drawling duet of "I ain't worried 'bout nothing" leads the LP into its heady midsection.
Black Metal pulls the very Dean Blunt move of curbing its own momentum with two dragging-feet epics. The 13-minute "Forever" is a stark monument in the middle—a defeated march of rattling drums, atonal vocals and bleating horns. "X" is the angry fit that follows, with synths that hit like blasts of AC as Blunt spits and barks his lines. That bitter mood dominates the rest of Black Metal—there's harsh, spurting techno on "Country" (where, in a bit of fourth-wall breaking, we hear Blunt turn the volume down on his MacBook) and terse rapping on "Hush." It all comes to a head with "Grade," a brooding opus of post-punk synth and wailing saxophone that's one of Blunt's most intense works yet.
As "Grade" fades out, you feel like you've experienced a full spectrum of emotions, expressed with little or no filter. Blunt is often called a "prankster" for his confusing and intentionally distracting antics. With Black Metal, he's pulled a fast one on us by delivering something so intimate. Sure, the LP has its eccentric moments, and it takes a long time to really get to know. But, as The Redeemer hinted and Black Metal proves, beneath all the YouTube sampling, bizarre press and one-off Russian blog releases, Blunt is a talented singer-songwriter with a keen ear for odd sounds. It's telling that Black Metal was preceded by a comprehensive interview in The Wire, which portrayed him as an unpretentious everyman sitting on a bench in a park. In its own stubborn way, Black Metal is almost as direct.
02. 50 Cent
06. Molly & Aquafina