A migration is a great journey. A migration is driven by instinct, by something you can feel in your heart just as much as in your head. A migration is something slow but undeniably steady, perhaps even unstoppable. There could hardly be a more fitting title for Bossk’s second record.
For a band that are the polar opposite of prolific (the Kent outfit took a decade to get from debut EP to debut album), this particular ‘Migration’ has arrived in relatively good time, five years after the towering ‘Audio Noir’. But it should have been released even sooner. The record was almost finished almost a year ago now but, like so many things, it was delayed by the Coronavirus pandemic. Grand plans were also undone by some last-minute medical issues faced by vocalist Sam Marsh. He doesn’t appear here.
The wait did give the infamously exacting band more time to work. Tracks were tightened, mixes were tweaked, and erstwhile members of Endon were invited to apply layers of hypnotic noise throughout. The quintet even started writing songs for their next album. This record, though, is titanic.
‘Menhir’ takes less than 20 seconds to get up to speed and then hardly stops rolling- a cauldron of rising and falling riffs, and the perfect backdrop for Cult of Luna frontman Johannes Persson to unleash his feral bellows. Palm Reader frontman Josh McKeown can roar too, but also uses clean vocals to add some really satisfying variety to the wily riffs and crumbing layers of ‘HTV-3’. It’s testament to Marsh’s abilities, however, that while both Persson and McKeown sound killer, neither of them quite suit Bossk’s sonic maelstrom as much as him. Final track, ‘Unberth’, might be the best of the bunch. It emerges from an apocalyptic mist before mutating into a slow-motion spaghetti western soundtrack and space rock saga and finishing with a flurry of cinematic riffs. It’s over eight minutes long but never feels time-consuming and every time it ends, I want to hit repeat.
All that said, this record is certainly less direct than ‘Audio Noir’. Sure, the back half of ‘Lira’ could demolish buildings, but where before there were a regular supply of revving riffs, shimmering guitars and cosmic dust, now there is rolling darkness, radio static, eerie silence even. It isn’t just the cover art that is made in shades of grey. But what it lacks in immediacy, ‘Migration’ makes up for in atmosphere and ambition.
Bossk are no strangers to a slow burn but the opener here, ‘White Stork’, is nearly six minutes of evil ambience. The pace rises a little, percussion starts to pop, but the track never really resolves. It’s a quietly compelling piece, and just one of many indications that the band’s sonic palette has expanded yet again. There’s also bass that sounds like a horn section in the build-up of ‘HTV-3’, the solemn ‘Kibo’, much more than a segue, and the post-rock flavoured front half of ‘Lira’ that would walk on to the most recent Mogwai album. And I’m sure there’s even more secrets buried in the mix, just waiting to be found. This is a record built to come back to again and again. ‘Migration’ will take you places.