Bölzer Want to Elevate You Through Metal
Swiss duo deal exclusively in duality & power on 'Soma' EP, streaming now.
It’s after midnight in Switzerland, and Okoi Thierry Jones has just knocked off work at the bar he manages in Zurich. The Swiss-born, New Zealand-bred vocalist/guitarist (also known by his stage name KzR) fronts Bölzer, the blistering atmospheric metal duo that recently upended Maryland Deathfest with not one but two much-discussed performances. Back at home, Jones and drummer HzR are set to unveil the band’s hotly anticipated second EP, Soma, via Ireland’s Invictus Productions. That the English translation of the band name is roughly “bolt of energy”—not unlike a lightning strike—is no coincidence: Bölzer’s music is nothing if not a sudden flash from the sky that singes flesh, whitens hair and leaves you with the mistaken idea that it can’t possibly happen again. Until it does.
Stream that EP in its entirety here at Noisey and head below for a conversation with KzR.
First off, you guys have one of the best fucking logos I’ve seen in years. What inspired it?
KzR: I’m really into poignant symbolism and graphics, and it was obvious that I needed to make a logo for the band. Given the name and the references to lightning and striking and natural forces, I wanted something really sharp. So it’s like an incorporation of runic structure and lightning form in that sense. It took quite a bit of work, but it totally worked out.
How would you describe Bölzer’s musical philosophy?
I guess that’s pretty simple. It’s all about getting out what we’re feeling. There’s no conformity involved as far as genres—black metal, death metal, whatever. I just write riffs that feel right to me. They’re usually based around atmosphere and power. The songs definitely have to move me. If the riff isn’t doing that, if it’s not giving me goose bumps, I’m not gonna use it. The goal is elevation—bodily and spiritual elevation.
That makes sense. You can’t listen to Bölzer and say, “They’re a death metal band,” or “They’re a black metal band.” You’ve eliminated that from the process.
I think so. It’s not something we try to do intentionally. We don’t try to avoid genre categorization or try to be really unique. That’s not really a goal of ours at all. But most successful musicians—musicians that I enjoy listening to, anyway—all of them seemed to have coined at least aspects of their own style, and that’s always been really inspirational to me. I mean, when someone does something fresh and appealing, it’s usually devoid of genre constraints.
Your first demo was called Roman Acupuncture, which is a fantastic title. What inspired it?
It’s a bit of an avant-garde term for crucifixion. [Laughs] I don’t like writing things in a very blunt, simple manner. Well, I do sometimes, but it would have to be very tasteful. I would never use the word “crucifixion,” for example—at least not in that context. But I love the English language and I love to play with words. The lyric for the song itself is like a modern interpretation of the Nietzschean concept of healing sickly morality. I wanted to play with that in medical terms.
There are some clear sonic differences between your two EPs. Did you approach Soma differently from last year’s Aura?
Yeah, definitely. First and foremost, they’re two concept releases—it was all sort of planned in advance—and they were intended to be released one after the other and to complement each other. So Aura and Soma are both a mixture of our early period, going back to Roman Acupuncture, and newer material from the last one and a half to two years. I wanted to find a thematic relationship between the two eras and put them into a concept release. That seemed like the best way to give them their place in relationship to the new stuff we’re writing for the full-length album, because I really wanted to separate the eras as such.
The sonic differences are apparent and were planned as well, and the visual relationship is quite obvious as far as the graphics and what’s going on there. That’s based on old Central European Celtic imagery. Aura is concerning the metaphysical and the spiritual, and Soma is concerning the flesh and the earthly aspect of things. They both play with death and rebirth in that sense, and they’re both completely intertwined. If you read the lyrics with that in mind, I think it makes a bit more sense.
It sounds like what you’re talking about is duality.
Totally, man. I’m a duality freak. [Laughs] I’m very much into balances, what happens with balances, and what you do with them. There is an equilibrium, and for me as a human being, if you work together with balances and duality there is also a third aspect, a third force that takes place. For me, that’s the “I” or the being. That’s kind of my channel. For me, one plus one is three in that sense.
Because you’re in the equation as well.
Right. That’s the way I like to see it. With duality, if you exclude yourself from the equation, it doesn’t result in anything. It exists, but you have no place in it as a conscious being. So for me, you become the third party or the third point in a triad, essentially.
That’s kind of like the idea that time travel isn’t possible because if you were to go back in time to a specific event, the event would change just by virtue of you being there.
Yeah, absolutely. You could tie that into it. It’s a very broad concept. But in a nutshell, that’s what I write about—although admittedly in very abstract terms. I don’t like to write in a really detailed or comprehensive manner. It’s more about getting out what I’m feeling and putting it into a kind of poetic package that pleases me.
How did you first become interested in duality?
I went to a Rudolf Steiner school when I as a kid. It was very based around nature and humans as a working unit. Also a lot of mythology was involved. We were taught about a lot of different cultures, what they believed in, and what they still believe in. Art was very much at the front as well. So all this stuff came together and created a very colorful world for me, I guess. Later, when I got interested in reading my own topics in history and philosophy, it all seemed very clear: Nature and humans have a lot of similarities—archetypal characteristics that they share. For me that was kind of the grounding of duality.
So you’ve completed the conceptual pairing with the two EPs. Where does that leave you for the full-length you’re working on now?
We started writing new material over the last year or so. We write really slowly—well,I do. I like to give the material a lot of time to gestate and grow on its own terms, so it’s important for me to start playing around with an idea and then put it on the backburner for however long until it rises of its own accord. The end result is usually a lot better that way. I don’t like to force things. So we’re working on a third song now. They’re not all complete, but it’s starting to take form. The intention is to make a not very long full-length. For me a perfect album length is like 40 minutes. We’re not going to make an hour-long record. No way. It’ll be around the six or seven song mark. And there will be an exciting cover in there as well.
You write slowly, and you planned out the first two EPs in advance. It seems like you’re playing the long game, which most bands are not doing. The general mode of operation is to release something quickly, reap as many benefits as you can from it, and move on. But you’re not doing that.
Well, I have to come to terms with the fact that I write slowly. So it became clear early on that if we were gonna do something with the band and try to gain momentum—as it did—we’re gonna have to plan the releases in a way that they don’t crush the momentum. So we’re doing our best with that. Soma was actually really delayed. It was supposed to be released about four months ago. But that’s not that bad, given that we’re going to record and release the album next year.
Speaking of momentum, you recently played two sets at Maryland Deathfest, and it seems like Bölzer and Uncle Acid were the talk of the festival. In your case, it’ s especially impressive because one of your sets was at the same time as At The Gates’ performance. What do you make of the buzz currently surrounding Bölzer?
Well, it was our first time playing the States and when we were asked to play, we were aware that there were a few people who were excited about what we’re doing. So it’s obviously great that we could play. There was only one show planned, but we were informed on short notice that another band couldn’t play, so they asked us if we wanted to step in. That was great for us. The response was overwhelming. It was surprising, of course, but the fact that we’re one of the few duos in this genre of metal maybe makes it particularly exciting for some people.
What are the pros and cons of being in a two-piece band?
I must say it’s basically only pros for me. [Laughs] It wasn’t our intention to work as a duo—it was out of necessity that we don’t have a bassist. But we love the challenge. We like to take on the difficulties of writing as a duo and having to fill up the sonic spectrum with only two instruments. The logistics of traveling are a lot easier with two people, obviously, and we’re best friends so we work well as a team. Cons? Well, if some of my equipment chooses to die onstage, I have to fix it before we can continue playing. [Laughs] Otherwise, I’m not really confronted with any negative aspects.
J. Bennett wishes he went to a Rudolf Steiner school instead of Catholic school
Want more metal? Check these out: