Blut Aus Nord

(Copyright © 2006 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of use )

Ultima Thulee (1995), 6/10
Memoria Vetusta I - Fathers of the Icy Age (1996), 6/10
The Mystical Beast Of Rebellion (2001), 5/10
The Work Which Transforms God (2003), 6.5/10
Thematic Emanation Of Archetypal Multiplicity (2005), 5/10
Mort (2006), 5/10
Odinist (2007) , 5/10
Memoria Vetusta II - Dialogue With The Stars (2009), 7/10
777: Sects (2011), 5.5/10
777: The Desanctification (2012), 5.5/10
777 - Cosmosophy (2012), 6/10
Memoria Vetusta III - Saturnian Poetry (2014), 6/10
Deus Salutis Meae (2017), 5/10
Hallucinogen (2019), 5/10

France's Blut Aus Nord (originally the solo project of vocalist and guitarist "Vindsval") played keyboards-tinged black metal on Ultima Thulee (1995) A melancholy keyboard refrain towers in The Son Of Hoarfrost over the onslaught carried out by demonic growl and guitar distortion. The nine-minute The Plain Of Ida even begins with an organ solo that evokes the age of Bach. The organ than intones a funereal litany while the drums keep a midtempo rhythm and the voice spreads over it more like an ominous wind than singing. After five minutes the guitar finally intones the solemn and macabre leitmotiv. Hysterical riffing sets the eight-minute From Hlidskjalf on fire but it is interrupted by a quasi-ambient keyboard intermezzo. In the middle of On The Way To Vigrid two guitars, one electric and one acoustic, duet in a neoclassical manner before unleashing an avalanche of power riffs. There is room even for the Zen-like invocation of My Prayer Beyond Ginnungagap, that features no instruments and simply overlapping vocals, and for the new-age organ solo Rigsthula.

Memoria Vetusta I - Fathers of the Icy Age (1996) is another immature but promising work. This time, having all but eliminated the keyboards, the vocals have a more prominent role, although the singing is not always up to the task. Nonetheless, Sons Of Wisdom Master Of Elements and especially The Forsaken Voices Of The Ghostwood's Shadowy Realm (despite the torrential riffing and drumming) move closer to the traditional song format. The new melodic course, however, is best represented by the romantic guitar break in On The Path Of Wolf Towards Dwarfhill and by the combination of mournful guitar motif and agonizing screams in Fathers Of The Icy Age (with a dark ambient epilogue). Even the explosive eight-minute The Territory Of Witches / Guardians Of The Dark Lake has a Pink Floyd-ian coda of melodic apotheosis.

The far less original The Mystical Beast Of Rebellion (2001 - Debemur Morti, 2011) consists of a suite titled The Fall in six chapters. From the frantic opening of Chapter I on, the album is a relentless avalanche of mechanical blastbeats and guitar tremolos. The crude riffs and repetitive sections make for a difficult listening experience, except in the more desolate and tragic moments of Chapter III, which ends with ghostly metallic noise, slow piano notes and a sinister rumble. They began to introduce elements of industrial music in Chapter V, a somnolent snake of warped sounds, which comes right after the roaring Chapter IV. The reissue adds a disc with three more chapters.

The "industrial" phase began in earnest with The Work Which Transforms God (2003), a collection of short experiments in destabilizing the format of black metal. Two minutes into The Choir Of The Dead the music relents and vocals seem to plunge into a black hole. The lightning speed blastbeats of Axis quickly dissipate in the face of shapeless guitar distortion and vocals that sound like echoes coming back from the black hole. After the brief ambient interlude of The Fall, and the doom-metal excursion of Metamorphosis, The Supreme Abstract resumes the ride into this strange combination of horror and chaos, the vocals vomiting senseless noise and the guitars burying it under a dissonant shroud. Despite the violent opening, Our Blessed Frozen Cells is mostly a slowly rising hymn in the vein of latter-day Pink Floyd. After the noise interlude of Devilish Essence, The Howling Of God seem an exercise in mechanical music at different levels, borrowing pages from noise-rock of the 1980s (the dissonant guitar even sounds like early Sonic Youth). After the insane and alien interlude of Inner Mental Cage, the album closes with the very gothic ten-minute Procession Of The Dead Clowns, a slow melodic number that doesn't quite fit with the rest but restores a bit of humanity to the work.

After the ambient detour of Thematic Emanation Of Archetypal Multiplicity (2005), they abandoned black metal altogether for a new gothic genre straddling the border between post-rock and doom-metal with atonal guitars and grotesque keyboards, yielding the tortured Mort (2006) and the mediocre Odinist - The Destruction of Reason by Illumination (2007).

Memoria Vetusta II - Dialogue With The Stars (Candlelight, 2009), a return to the magniloquent melodic style, boasted a slicker production, keyboards and slightly less corrosive shrieks. The nine-minute Disciple's Libration - Lost in the Nine Worlds blends soaring organ notes and a church choir into the blastbeats and the undulating guitar riffs, ending with a gentle coda of acoustic guitar. The Cosmic Echoes Of Non-Matter has the rhythm of a pagan dance and undergoes several mutations, displaying a narrative dimension that was missing in previous works. After the acoustic, ambient interlude of Translucent Body Of Air, the nine-minute The Formless Sphere is similarly a complex and evolving creature, both romantic and intimidating, mixing some of the more emotional guitar riffs of their career with hymn-like invocations (alas, also with blastbeats that sound out of context). The leitmotiv of the ten-minute The Meditant is even more pagan and magniloquent, but frame within fragile acoustic passages. After two minutes, the nine-minute The Alcove Of Angels seems to travel to cosmic lands with an almost symphonic keyboard sound, and then the moderate guitar and voice flow create a sense of solemn waiting, but halfway the piece explodes and the premonition becomes more like a prayer. Antithesis Of The Flesh blends the feverish and noisy chaos of black metal with droning ambient keyboards and romantic guitar melodies. This breathtaking ride ends with the emotional instrumental lullabye of Elevation. All in all, this album stands as a compendium of Vindsval's career.

The frenzied 777: Sects (2011), that marked their return to black metal, was the first two parts of a trilogy. The chaotic orgy of Epitome I fades away in a sinister labirynth of ghostly electronic sounds. The snarling distorted 12-minute Epitome IV boasts the occasional blastbeats but is mostly jarring plodding nonsense. Epitome VI pointed at the slow, hypnotic style of the future. The second installment, 777: The Desanctification (Debemur Morti, 2012), relied on a drum-machine and moved further away from black music and towards an atmospheric form of industrial metal. The hypnotic atonal repetition of Epitome VII has become the norm, and the ugly vocals simply surf it in search of a friendly riff. Even the demonic vortex of Epitome VIII nurtures solemn melodic riffs. The slow-motion closer, Epitome XIII, indulges in quasi-religious pathos with elegiac, dilated guitar phrases.

The mostly instrumental and infinitely more melodic 777 - Cosmosophy (Debemur Morti, 2012), the final installment in the 777 trilogy, was a hodgepodge of all the styles they had tried so far, simply increasing the doses of repetition and of melody, from the grandiose post-industrial crescendo of Epitome XV (the crowning piece of the trilogy) to the emphatic gothic eleven-minute march of Epitome XVIII that dissolves into feeble cosmic radiation. The gentle guitar Epitome XVI leads to a thundering theme of eternal damnation/desperation, but even at its worst the sound is now mostly a variation on arena-rock of the 1980s. The sinister and martial Epitome XIV (where the vocals still dominate) comes through like an anemic version of Amon Duul II's satanic rituals.

Replacing the drum machines of the 777 project with human drummer Thorns, Blut Aus Nord achieved another peak of melody on Memoria Vetusta III - Saturnian Poetry (2014), a denser and smoother implementation of their romantic side, although less grandiose than chapter 2 of the trilogy. Paien even sounds like a merging of church music and black metal, drenched in an almost pathetic languor, as if Satan had converted and sang Gregorian chants. Tellus Mater begins at a ferocious gallop, and for the most part the singing is largely reduced to animal sounds and shamanic howls before the final choir. The only drawback is that the circular guitar riffs are too repetitive. But the guitar weaves a relentless sense of angst in Forhist, while creative drumming opens cracks all around it. Alas, here the drawback is that the song incorporates Satanic cliches before its anthemic ending. Henosis is simply a blind overdose of apocalyptic horror which fails to cohere, and Metaphor of the Moon, another overlong piece, depicts a protracted agony on which the band grafts a kitsch melody. These uncertain compositions are blown away by the ten-minute grand finale of Clarissima Mundi Lumina where all the elements are better fused, explored and dynamited.

After the terrible Codex Obscura Nomina (2016), a collaboration with their US counterpart Aevangelist (Ascaris and Matron Thorn), Blut Aus Nord resurrected their dissonant industrial side (the one displayed on The Work Which Transforms God) on Deus Salutis Meae (2017) but in a rather simplistic manner, resulting in a rather monotonous experience,

Instead, Hallucinogen (2019) returned to the melodic and atmospheric style of Memoria Vetusta of which Sybelius and Mahagma sound like leftovers. While not psychedelic like the title of the album implies, the music is mostly midtempo and at times even dreamy.

(Copyright © 2006 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of use )
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