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Blut aus Nord, a project by a French artist, nicknamed Vindsval, is recognized and certainly appreciated by many fans of extreme music. This is due to its15 years existence and the amount of quality albums released.
Blut aus Nord can be divided into two faces. Early years of the band are marked with two albums embedded in a rather conventional Nordic style, characterized by sublime, epic atmosphere and a large dose of ambient. One of them, entitled Memoria Vetusta: Fathers Of The Icy Age is the first part of the album reviewed here. The second face is much more experimental, chaotic and less affordable. Four more albums recorded in this new style are reminiscent of the mixture of noise with industrial, but are still rooted in black metal. These unique albums gave Blut aus Nord many new followers, whereas people accustomed to band’s older sound had to persistently await the second part announced in 1996.
After thirteen years, Vindsval has fulfilled the promise and on the fifteenth year of the project’s existence Memoria Vetusta II: Dialogue With The Stars was released. The album has a potential to unite the audience. It is a stylistic continuation of the first era, with distinct elements of industrial sound.
A very characteristic, almost a traditional particle in the music of the French is a drum machine, which this time, does not fit particularly well to the concept. However, use of fake drums may also serve as a bridge between two distinct periods. The sound of the guitars also remained metallic and artificial, which reminds of last four more experimental albums. Here, however, the similarity ends; the new album is different in its essence.
Memoria Vetusta II abandons clearly worn out industrial, areas and mixes much more traditional black metal sounds reminiscent of pristine Nordic nature and the pagan cults. The foretaste of this melange were, of course, two earliest albums, as well as the penultimate Odinist. However, the mixture in Memoria Vetusta II is another step forward enriched by amazing oriental flavors.
It is quite difficult to justify which moments of the album resemble eastern, or more specifically, Hindu or Indian music but, without a doubt, there is such a feeling leaking from this entire creation. Inspiration with the East is also confirmed by the titles of compositions. This exceptional oriental atmosphere may have been achieved by the characteristic dreamy sound of keyboards and unforgettable guitar melodies. Blending all these unique elements with more traditional aspects of black metal music Vindsval once again proved that this genre still can be creative.
Memoria Vetusta II is without doubt one of the best black metal albums of the year, and probably their most monumental creation so far. The record is a proof that even now, in times where it seems everything had been recorded, and many metal bands strive for originality by wading in modern areas of electronics, while others regress to crust punk, a talented artist can create an extraordinary monument - an album up to par with the greatest classics of the genre.
Blut Aus Nord is one of the most brilliant artists in black metal, a band that never fails to fascinate or enthrall with their unique excursions into ambient territory, crusted in a barbaric black shell. While I found their last two albums MoRT and Odinist to be genre re-defining and excellent, they did seem to alienate a segment of the band's fan base. To those fans, Memoria Vetusta II, a 'sequel' to their 1996 sophomore effort Memoria Vetusta I: Fathers of the Icy Age, makes for a kindly peace offering. That said, if you found yourself more in the camp of their recent, chaotically charged offerings, you will still be pleased, because this album simply oozes grace and quality.
Yes, Memoria Vetusta II: Dialogue with the Stars is a partial nod to the band's early catalogue, but it's also a highly refined, mature work of atmospheric black metal which scintillates from the moment of its intro "Acceptance (Aske)", a stripped down ambient piece which conjures the lush skyscape of the album's cover art. "Disciple's Libration (Lost in the Nine Worlds)" reigns you into a driving, melodic black fervor, each riff painstakingly crafted to offer both beauty and innate savagery. The bass playing of GhÖst is a constant presence, keeping the low end anchor of the composition dynamic and busy. "The Cosmic Echoes of Non-Matter (Immaterial Voices of the Fathers)" is similar, yet slightly more turbulent in its forceful shifting of interstellar energies, a beacon of black neuroses veiled in shimmering angels and celestial bodies. "Translucent Body of Air (Sutta Anapanasati)" is a breathtaking acoustic/ambient piece which leads into the driving, gorgeous "Formless Sphere (Beyond the Reason)". This album simply does not falter, but I should make specific mention of the wondrous "Antithesis of the Flesh (...and Then Arises a New Essence)", and the album's closer, "Elevation", a tonal, uplifting shift into transcendence.
Though melodious and 'catchy' from the onset, Memoria Vestuta II is still a complex enough work that repeated listens will provide further insight and 'unlock' epic patterns in the material. The mix of the album is incredible: raw enough to please fans of their earlier work, yet every note and strike of a drum is captured perfectly. The album echoes through your headphones like the voice of an extraterrestrial deity, stopping to ask you for directions to the nearest quasar. Is it the band's magnum opus to this point? I can't say as such, I hold a deep love for some of the band's earlier works and have also been impressed with their more cryptic efforts of the 21st century. What I can say is that Blut Aus Nord is the type of band we will look back on in 20 years as purveyors of genius, and this is a record which transcends black metal yet could not be more loyal to its deepest intentions.
Forever shunning the limelight, France's mysterious black metal troupe Blut Aus Nord are back in town with album number seven, "Memoria Vetusta II: Dialogue with the Stars", an album which in title at least could be deemed as the natural successor to album two "Memoria Vetusta I: Fathers of the Icy Age". Being considerably closer to my favoured end of the dense cavernous world of BM and a band at that with quite a reputation predominantly formed by 2003's "The Work Which Transforms God" this has been an album release I had a certain intrigue about for some time.
"The Work..." being the only album I had previously heard by BAN, and as of yet not fully realised it's wonders so many others speak of, may not exactly class me as a long-established fan but results in "Memoria Vetusta II" as being a test of their overall worthiness to a French underground black metal scene surprisingly strong relative to it's historical contribution to the pantheon of metal.
The action gets going immediately with "Acceptance (Aske)" heading straight into dissonant BM territory, referencing Burzum, Wolves in the Throne Room, and more euphorically, Windir, on the way to creating a sound inherently dark and broody yet one that always possesses a light at the end of the proverbial tunnel, unlike many of their counterparts. This could be surmised as being thanks to the wicked sense of melody found in "The Cosmic Echoes of Non-Matter (Immaterial Voices of the Fathers)" and "The Alcove of Angels (Vipassana)" and perversely, perhaps, to the ambient inclinations in "Disciple's Libration (Lost in the Nine Worlds)" and "Elevation" where Varg's monotone ambient dirges have been indulged to become a moment of fresh air sandwiched between rasping, driving black metal. The majority of the album is spent in this tone, with a drumsound sadly lacking the feel of a human touch and a vocalist nestled in the distance amid the dissonance of BAN's synthesised riffs, but riffs some of these are. Cascading down from the distance and given plenty of time to grow in many cases, in the likes of "The Formless Sphere (Beyond The Reason)" they trace out symphonies of masterfully crafted black metal of the kind those without a passion for BM often fail to grasp. Thin they may, and lower in the mix than they deserve but "The Alcove Of Angels (Vipassana)" and "The Cosmic Echoes Of Non-Matter (Immaterial Voices Of The Fathers)" are majestic and emperial and hint at why BAN are such a mysteriously revered name.
Don't expect much in the way of promotion or touring to support this record; you'd be lucky to even find a picture of Blut Aus Nord existing. Thus adding to the sense of other worldliness in their more spaced-out interludes, "Memoria Vetusta II: Dialogue with the Stars" is a deeply intriguing listen that could even do the unthinkable and pull in some outsiders to the enclosed world of BM as amongst all the theatrics there are some seriously good bands ploughing their furrows in it's rich plains.
Originally written for Rockfreaks.net
While a large portion of fans will no doubt deny it, Black Metal has always gone through certain trends, providing a template shaping the majority of new bands' direction and resulting in a lot of similar sounding releases at any given time. Then again, there are bands who never seem to pay any attention to these trends, always carving their own path without any visible influence from their peers. The French ensemble BLUT AUS NORD have been among these elite few since their 1994 conception, and 15 years later it appears that they are still pushing the boundaries of the genre.
Even though their 2007 release, "Odinist", didn't cause much of a stir upon release, it was a juggernaut of crushing industrial-tinged Black Metal, cold and merciless as the grave. Never a band to rest on their past achievements, "Dialogue With The Stars" is a totally different beast, turning away from the heavy blows, instead transcending beyond the human sphere and turning towards another realm of essence. In other words, the cold wintery forests and Satan-worshiping clowns of Black Metal are nowhere in sight, and in their place we have a glorious and melodic collection of songs that barely fit under the constrictions of any particular genre.
To return to somewhat more earthly terms, "Dialogue With The Stars" is a feast for the ears, carefully adorned with epic riffs, beautiful melodies, and a sense of raw emotion that's become a rarity in modern Metal. It's memorable, at times wildly catchy, and above all unique in its spacy vastness. Every time you think a song has reached its climax, Vindsval takes it up another notch, further blowing the air out of the listener and reaching a new level of cosmic transcendence.
When the time comes for looking back at the greatest efforts of 2009, I'm convinced that BLUT AUS NORD will hold a spot amongst the very best. The many-headed hydra that is post-Black Metal has never sounded this good, and it makes me wonder how far this band can go when they keep upping the ante like this on every album.
(Online April 16, 2009)
Written for the Metal Observer
It’d be a grave injustice to talk about French black metal and not mention Blut Aus Nord. As soon as Vindsval put out a juggernaut of a debut album in Ultima Thulee, Blut Aus Nord firmly established themselves as a band that treads their own ground. Incorporating a more industrial approach as opposed to the pronounced folkish/pagan sound prevalent in Ultima Thulee, they released Memoria Vetusta I a year later and did not disappoint. The ensuing experimental phase saw them peak with The Work Which Transforms God – an album where the signature Blut Aus Nord sound was processed through a cold, mechanical filter creating a uniquely hellish atmosphere previously unknown to black metal. 2007’s Odinist was largely unnoticed but it was another consistent addition to their credit. Anyhow, I’ll stop boring you with the history lesson and get to the imperative matter at hand: Blut Aus Nord are back with an emphatic bang.
Memoria Vetusta II: A Dialogue With The Stars is a magnificently produced album with justice being done to every aspect of the music, especially the riff. Blut Aus Nord have always been a riff oriented black metal band as opposed to the build-on-a-single-motif type of band (though they have dabbled with the latter art form as well – Procession Of The Dead Clowns being a great case in point). The riffs themselves are plenty in number and come in all shapes and sizes which swing through diverse moods and tempos. Lots of ideas are flirted with including a variety of acoustic/clean guitars parts, keyboard-heavy atmospheric melodic passages, menacing thrash-inclined chug based riffs, dissonant hanging chords and spaced out psychedelic solos along with other oddities. Doesn’t sound like the black metal you know? Don’t jump too far ahead for the core of the album is made of unsympathetic, blast-beat driven, tremolo picked riffs consisting of odd meters and an unhinged notion of darkness.
Deviating from their previous output, Blut Aus Nord bring an unheralded epicness to their sound not unlike how Emperor did with In The Nightside Eclipse. A characteristic sense of twisted melody is prevalent throughout, serving as the backbone of the album – a distinctive skill achieved by very few bands (I’m looking at you Summoning and Septic Flesh). Many purists may believe that the term ‘melodic black metal’ is a perfect example of an oxymoron. But I urge all of them to listen to Memoria Vetusta II: A Dialogue With The Stars and truly experience what ‘melodic’ black metal is all about. The album demands an hour of your time and I assure you that your it is time well spent. In my books, this is a sure-shot forerunner for album of the year.
Originally written for http://www.kvltsite.com
Witness the majestic return of one of the vanguards of the French Black Metal revolution. Nominally a sequel to their 1996 epic, this is not so much a back-to-your-roots album as it is the marriage of their original style with recent experimental offerings. Blut Aus Nord have birthed a worthy successor to both Memoria Vetusta I and the pioneering Work Which Transforms God of 2003. When so many bands don crowns of decaying laurels, Vindsval’s triumvirate remains ever the masters of their craft.
The first song “Antithesis of the Flesh” storms through your headphones in a transcendent synthesis of old and new. Copious melodies weave through atmospheric keyboards and monastic chants. Meanwhile inhuman blasts and industrial drumbeats propel the listener into galactic soundscapes. Scenes of terror and mystique give way to regal fanfare. Incorporating elements from Ultima Thulée through Odinist, rarely is an album so diverse yet euphoniously consistent.
For a genre immersed in darkness and misanthropy, dare I say this composition is colorful and enlivening? The artwork alone paints an organic yet otherworldly exhibition. Musically, it contrasts emotive melodies with the mathematical rhythms of the drum computer; futuristic yet as ancient as the human condition itself. Lyrics are absent, offering freer interpretation and drawing the listener closer to the music’s own eloquence.
This is as far removed from standard Black Metal as Oslo from Paris. Buzz saw guitar riffing underlies clean and acoustic guitar harmonies and solos, shimmering with progressive highlights. Contemplative ambience interplays with headbangable riffs. Screeching vocals blend into a musical fabric drenched in beautiful pain. All sense of traditional song structure is discarded for an intelligently structured opus worth several listens just to comprehend its magnificence.
Black Metal stalwarts may find discomfort in the cleaner production and experimental elements. As for the unenlightened, this is the perfect gateway to Metal in its true grandeur. Leave your pop culture stereotypes at the dock and dive in. Let this album drown you in an ocean of sound, for both meditation and catharsis. It’s far too early for an “album of the year” declaration, but if anything will contend with this, 2009 should be a glorious year for Metal.
Amazing. Blut Aus Nord has done it again, taking a further step on their constant evolution. It would seem the experience gathered with the experimentation on the last few albums has gotten mixed with the old-schoolesque feeling of their first albums, mainly Memoria Vetusta I. This album could have very well been written in 1996, and latter given the more modern touches of MoRT and Odinist, but that's not all. This album was given something new. Something progressive I may say.
Let's get the only bad thing about this album out of the way. The sound is the good old sound we all know, maybe a bit cleaner, but that's all. After so much evolution and experimentation I would like to hear a considerable change in sound, but it remains the trademark BAN sound, which is still nice, but it's what keeps this album to reach a 100.
Now that I've gotten that out of the way we can proceed with the many great things this album holds. For starters, many people lost interest on the band once it dived into the extremely experimental styles of MoRT and Odinist, while at the same time many people began to show interest on the band for the same reasons. This album here seems like the band's (very well done) attempt to join these two crowds into one album both (and others) can enjoy. The dissonant riffs, the echoing keyboards, damp ambient, bizarre feeling altogether, unconventional melodies, they are all there, to be sure. But these seem to converge in what I can only call regular structures. The kind of recognizable melodies, catchy ones at that, and logical but not repetitive patterns (I mean there are well separated riffs and all but this is as far from the verse-chorus-verse structure as possible) bring a sense of familiarity to those who are not used to the extremely experimental sides of BAN.
On the other hand, there are many things I could have never expected from a BAN album, but ended up working in great ways. For example, the clean passages. Yes, that's right, this album has many clean guitar passages which make for a nice calm moment between storms of relentless black metal. Keyboards have been executed in a delicate and flowing manner, instead of being used for extra dissonant sounds and diverse FX which were used in the past for the sole sake of being weird. The keyboards kind of push the melodies on like some kind of musical lubricant, without being too notorious (or rather, being hardly notorious in some cases). There are also many moments one could call "solos" even though they don't seem to be more than just... nice musical moments with the guitar (because calling them "solos" kind of gives them a central part on the song structure which they don't really have), these moments are excellent and really add to the feeling this album transfers. They're even rockish at times, which makes for an even more unexpected experience.
This could very well be the best Blut Aus Nord album out there. I really enjoyed Memoria Vetusta I, TWWTAW was an incredible and unique piece of unconventional music, the experimentation in MoRT and to a lesser extent Odinist were just amazing and unpredictable, but this album has gathered the essence of all of these releases, condensing them in one master piece which holds a stronger feeling than all of those releases together. It's the most "alive" album BAN has to offer, and I highly recommend it to anyone who ever enjoyed any BAN album, and to those who seek for something new and great in black metal.