Baazlvaat - Incredible World (Self-released)

Baazlvaat's polymorphic black metal (BM) originated in a part of Michigan that's best known for crooked politics, public health crises, and endless winters. Perhaps coincidentally, the area is also a breeding ground for a squalid strain of DIY garage rock baptized in the blood and sweat of basement mosh pits. On Incredible World, this rugged scenery also makes itself home to Celtic folk, neo-psych, hardcore punk, and symphonic prog, in the same way that the Great Northern Hotel always had carousing Scandinavians in the backdrop.

It’s a testament to Baazlvaat’s compositional finesse that the result is so streamlined. Previous records firmly established the band's chops, and demonstrated their willingness to color outside the lines. The Higher Power and An Old Forgotten Text showboated just as much influence from ‘70s-style hard rock like Thin Lizzy or Blue Öyster Cult as they did from BM torchbearers like Darkthrone or Paysage d’HiverIncredible World continues that trend, translating chrome-plated prog rock into the orcish language of extreme metal. It stands to reason that the band could have made Incredible World their most polished effort to date, yet it is conspicuously the most lo-fi record in their discography. Fortunately, this move seems to be an intentional decision to lend the album more texture. The fuzzy guitar tone has an elastic bounce that recalls the vampire-in-sunglasses swank of Jordablod’s blackened surf-rock. The bass is audible, articulate, and snakes its way into harmonic interplay with the dueling axes and splashy keyboard runs. A bitcrushed mid-range gives the drum work a satisfying analog crunch. Despite the trad vocals—which feel equally inspired by Gregorian chants and Arthurian power metal—Baazlvaat aren’t looking to compete with modern acts The Lord Weird Slough Feg or Cirith Ungol. Rather, they join trailblazers like Trhä and Gudsforladt in the quest to explore the conceptual boundaries of raw BM.