While Blunt's 2013 effort The Redeemer was a largely sombre affair, Black Metal covers a broader spectrum of emotions over its 13 tracks. Between "Lush" opening the record with a looped Big Star string arrangement, the fuzzy revelry of "Heavy" and the cathartic "I ain't worried 'bout nothing" refrain of the stark "Molly and Aquafina," Blunt's cautious optimism resonates throughout the first half of the disc. Of course, these lighthearted moments are expertly juxtaposed with those of darkness, ranging from tales of incarceration on leading single "50 Cent" and the gloomy dub of "Punk" or the forceful, sharp musings of a failed relationship that close out "X."
The ascent to Black Metal's candid climax is a lengthy one, laid out in the aforementioned "X" and the 13-minute "Forever." A repetitive piano figure and heavily reverberating drums interspersed with Blunt's steady baritone and collaborator Joanne Robertson's gentle crooning create tension that is only elevated on the glitchy, minimal "Country" and "Mersh." An intense moment of release from a solo tenor saxophone on "Grade" proves quite gratifying, much like the entirety of Black Metal once you crack Blunt's cryptic musical guise. (Rough Trade)