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Draining, that's one word you can use to describe this album. And I say that with as much respect as I can from the very bottom of my soul.
While Blut Aus Nord had already begun prototyping a heavy, post-apocalyptic, wall-of-sound variety of black metal in 2001 with the Mystical Beast of Rebellion, they decided to go all out and fully realize this sound with 2003's The Work Which Transforms God. The monolithic soundscape is given far more depth and sinister, soul-draining compositions which give off a bleak, hellish atmosphere that serves best to terrify and depress the listener into submission. The Work Which Transforms God is an alien and otherworldly album that sounds like it crawled it's way out of some other dimension to bring it's unique variety of hell into our own. Yet for all the evil and grime, there is much to be experienced here that is worth your while.
Every note of this album seems to be there to test the limits of your despair. Songs such as The Choir of the Dead, Axis, Our Blessed Frozen Cells, and The Howling of God serve their part to unleash ultimate demented hell upon you with Their sounds. The guitars are tuned in a way that mixes with the production to create this cold, rusted, unfeeling industrial sound that barely resembles a guitar as they play forth their wild, snaking rhythms in deranged time-signatures alongside drums that propel the listener through the void made by this music. The vocals give off a feeling of inhumanity and torture as if you are being spoken to by some horrid abomination from beyond, often times you can understand nothing, other than at one moment when Vindsval screams "I AM THE SAVIOR!" in Choir of the Dead, everything else is deliberately unintelligible, adding to the feeling of "otherness" on this album. It is meant to put images of a cold, polluted, rainy, dead world of steel and rust into your mind as you slowly embrace the decay progressing around you. Driving through places like Newport News and Portsmouth, where urban decay runs rampant only helped me experience the loathsome atmosphere more thoroughly as my surroundings conformed to the music. This is only further helped by the slow, imposing ending, "Procession of the Dead Clowns" which only needs one riff to put out the atmosphere of being alone in a decaying world. It's also a strangely relaxing and triumphant piece, as if to say "you've made it to the end, you deserve a rest, but in our style. Enjoy marveling at this tranquil, yet morbid soundscape." Truly an imposing piece of music.
With all its inhumanity and hellishness, The Work Which Transforms God chills you to the bone, takes you to hell, and leaves you wanting to come back for another soul-draining session. It is a black monolith upon the world of black metal with its alien sound and depressive density. It is so dense and thick and otherworldly that some have taken to calling it "black hole metal", an apt descriptor for deliberately brickwalled music that sounds like it's bending reality around where it was recorded. Any aficionados of black metal looking for something truly out there and draining (in a good way) should give this one a listen, it's about as far out there as you can get.
Blut aus Nord occupy a completely unique space in my mind. Even in light of their copycats, there's not a single group that shares their particular atmosphere. So many black metal bands try to sound "inhuman" with their music, but how many achieve that impression completely? If we were talking about a more traditional kind of black metal or a Darkclone, that inhumanness would be naturally interpreted as that of a demon, or some evil creature besides. Blut aus Nord takes a very different approach to Otherness, and they're all the more chilling for it. Each time I listen to this band, I get the growing sense that this is what black metal would sound like if it were written by a malevolent AI program. The Work Which Transforms God is the best/worst offender in this respect. Experience of this album lends one of the most striking impressions I've ever felt in black metal: This is the work of a completely non-human entity, or at least someone with the genius vision to bring that effect to life.
In many ways, The Work Which Transforms God is Blut aus Nord's defining album. Vindsval has always stuck fairly close to this industrial-laden, dissonant sound, but every album has weighed certain aspects over others. A more recent BaN record, Saturnian Poetry, was incredibly organic-sounding, and only bears resemblance to this in some of the tones and guitar phrasings. Even so, I never think of Blut aus Nord without thinking of the cold, empty pit they dug for themselves on this one. The Work Which Transforms God is almost entirely defined by its atmosphere, an industrial wasteland-variety sparseness that I've never heard brought to such extents anywhere else.
The only other project I can think of that envelops a listener in atmosphere like this is arguably Darkspace: infinitely colder than Darkthrone, vast and simultaneously claustrophobic all at once. In Blut aus Nord's case however, they bolster that tone with rich and disturbing riffs. Unlike Darkspace, many of the tracks here are individually distinctive. The vaguely melodic resolution in "Our Blessed Frozen Cells", the anxious swirl on "The Howling of God", not to mention the apocalyptic industrial dirge come the album's closing track, "Procession of the Dead Clowns"; all these moments and many more felt like a tortured relief from sanity the first time I heard them, and the effect's never worn off.
I know this band gets a lot of comparisons with Deathspell Omega. Fans of one would probably enjoy the other, sure, but that sort of comparison only goes so far in describing the music itself. Deathspell Omega's intellectualized spiritual blasphemies always made it feel like their chaotic murk had a higher purpose to it. Not helped by the fact this album's lyrics (indecipherable in the mix as it is) have never been released, it's difficult for me to think of The Work Which Transforms God as anything other than incredibly nihilistic in its aims. There is no joy in the music here. There have been times I've listened to this album and noticed myself coming out of it feeling miserable and worn-down. Even the revelatory melodic break in "Our Blessed Frozen Cells" lacks catharsis from the mire. Some people will see that negative emotional response as a bad thing. The Work Which Transforms God was never meant for them, if anyone at all. When I consider myself pretty desensitized to feeling something strongly in music, there's a morbid euphoria in hearing something that kills the spirit like this. Are there other black metal albums that drain the spirit from me like this? I can count them on one hand.
The Work Which Transforms God is excellently written and paced. Its genius, however, lies in the way it nurtures the atmosphere in production and execution. Blut aus Nord represents the best use of programmed drums ever heard in metal. Where I usually see "fake" percussion as a necessary evil at best in black metal, they use it to their benefit, to the point where I'm not sure the album would be so great over a real kit. The guitar tone is mechanical but full, and despite echoing the timbres of machines so well in the music, it never once feels sterile. The Work Which Transforms God is what happens when an artist plunges deeper into an atmosphere than most others would dare dream of. Appreciating this cold, life-draining atmosphere shall be reserved for an elect few, while all others look on in bafflement.
If there is one album that can be described as a breakthrough it is this one. At least in the underground. The Work Which Transforms God is not Blut Aus Nord's best at any case but there is something about it... I can't accurately describe it but it makes seem like a revelation or something. The album itself is a classic but Blut Aus Nord have been releasing albums that are bound to become classics since their formation.
After The Mystical Beast of Rebellion which was inferior to their previous works in my opinion, the band needed an album that could easily stand on its own feet and not be compared to the rest of the band's discography. And they did it. Coming out of nowhere, this album knocked everyone's socks off upon the first listen. At least that's how I've portrayed it in my mind, I was only six years old back then... It does that for me though. After a couple of listens the album will feel way too familiar as it is very easy to absorb and digest. That doesn't mean that it is an album that sticks to the basics and mimics the band's earlier works. Not in the slightest. This was fresh back then and it still is now after twelve years.
Now here's something rather interesting... Vindsval said in an interview that he was inspired to make this album by The Blair Witch Project. Yes, I'm talking about the horror film. He said that he saw it and afterward he 'saw' the album, or at least the album's impression or the atmosphere. I haven't seen the film yet but if its atmosphere is reminiscent of the album's sound, it will probably scare the shit out of me. Because the sound of The Work Which Transforms God is massive, horrid and twisted in a peculiar way, no album until then had such a unique sound. The guitars are heavy and ethereal at the same moment. There are riffs that feel like an anvil is thrown right in your face and riffs that put you in trance. Their mesmerizing effect is never ending; actually it continues to affect you even after the album is over. The bass unfortunately is buried in the mix again. The programmed drums provide a solid rhythm section by themselves and in songs like The Choir of the Dead and Inner Mental Cage their sound is otherworldly. The will to experiment transformed into a fantastic album instead of making it a pointless effort by some French guys with low profile. The album's production wraps the result in a harrowing, gloomy feeling that perfectly fits the overall effort.
I cannot hate Blut Aus Nord and everybody knows it by now probably. Vindsval has his way to never disappoint but he doesn't stay there. Somehow he manages to make every riff sound like exactly what you wanted to hear. Every song evolves the way you want it to evolve... Or not? Maybe Vindsval's style is so sublime that you take his will for yours. Anyway, this album is not only a worthy addition to everyone's collection but also an essential listen. Delve into its world and let your perception of this world be transformed by the mighty Blut Aus Nord.
Favorite tracks: "The Choir of the Dead", "The Howling of God", "Inner Mental Cage", "Procession of the Dead Clowns".
This is a hard one to get into for sure. If you don't naturally gravitate towards really creepy and eerie music, this can be really hard to stomach and the inaccessibility of it all makes it a little harder to sit through in full without your attention wavering, its strangeness even offputting at times. The Mystical Beast of Rebellion showed us a much darker side to Blut Aus Nord and The Work Which Transforms God is sort of the logical expansion of the Beast's aesthetic. It offers much more in terms of variety in riff ideas, but still very much retains the core characteristics of the previous album. Drums, although made to sound as if they were intentionally programmed are again the work of W.D. Feld, spastic and sometimes overwhelming in intricacy during faster sections but always remaining calculated and mechanical as they are when the music is slower. Rarely are the transitions abrupt, as riffs are repeated many times and each one is written to flow very smoothly into the next one. This slow, linearly evolving creepiness was the skeleton of the music before, but The Work Which Transforms God's have a much more full range of motion and you actually do end up tasting a few sweet, savory melodies, something I really longed for on the album prior. No matter what your opinion is on the quality of Vindsval's musical textures, you have to give him credit for always moving things forward, never being particularly complacent; he couldn't write the same album twice even if he wanted to.
It is worth noting, though, that the differential jump in style from Mystical Beast to this album is smaller than the previous two jumps were. Mainly for that reason, I think the supposed "industrial" characteristics of this album are sort of overstated. Sure, if you pick apart the music enough you can make some comparisons to early Pitchshifter or something, but cold, repetitive rhythms don't really constitute a full-fledged industrial influence to me, especially considering how "human" the drumming sounds here relative to other drum programming in metal, like, I don't know, Godflesh. The hollow, despondent echoing chambers of ambiance on the periphery of the music could seem derived from something like Lustmord at first glance, but really ends up bearing greater resemblance to something such as Atrium Carceri as opposed to a sound one might commonly think of when they think of industrial influences in metal. Now, you might be saying "but dark ambient IS a form of industrial music, RapeTheDead!" Thanks for blurting that out, pedantic genre-labeling voice on the internet, but any of the dark ambient tendencies of this album only serve as an appendage on the black metal framework either way. This was perhaps one of the earlier examples of a more prominent, disparate "robotic" ambiance that could stand alone as its own feature in black metal this side of Thorns, but the riffs still primarily dominate the music and the atmosphere provided by the keyboards still relegated to a backdrop and an interlude feature. In the end, The Work Which Transforms God ends up falling much more in line with modern "industrial black metal", emphasis on the black metal. It is stark, ominous, repetitive and hollow, but the black metal permeating through the surface keeps it human. It could perhaps be seen as a slower, uglier precursor to that "voices in an abandoned asylum" feel a la The Axis of Perdition or even something like Anaal Nathrakh if you're looking for a bigger name (albeit a more distant comparison). That's just the thing, though: because that extra layer of atmospheric icing has never been a stranger to Vindsval's composition (even going as far back as when he still went by Vlad), this just ends up sounding like its cues were taken solely from other metal that sort of "sounds industrial" (i.e. cold and mechanized rhythmically like Mysticum or the previously mentioned Thorns) as opposed to any actual form of industrial/electronic music--there's an additional degree of separation. A lot of modern "ambient black metal" bands attempt this interplay of styles with less success, but it's still a relatively common approach to take in metal nonetheless. Be it slow, droning songs with tense keyboards floating overtop or distorted, cackling voices in an interlude, wholly metal bands always like to add those extra little ambient frills and make themselves seem a little more nuanced and "artistic". The "dark ambient" aspect of The Work Which Transforms God is, although obviously worth mentioning as I did just devote a whole paragraph to dissecting it, generally somewhat of an overstated feature in discussions I've had regarding this album. All things considered, this is a black metal album by and large.
Normally a misinterpretation by the general metal populace like that would really annoy me and cause me to give a lower overall rating to the album, but the end result is quite well composed regardless. Though the slower, plodding rhythms can cause your mind to drift off to other occupations when left unchanged for a particularly long time, there are much more saccharine rewards on this album than were offered on the previous release. "Our Blessed Frozen Cells", "Axis" and "Procession of the Dead Clowns" all feature some specks of lush and pleasant melody amidst the frantic tremolo riffing and decrepit drudgery. "Procession" in particular seems to be a popular track, and it's true that there's a delicate beauty ever-so-slightly peeking out of that track's turgid, repetitive toiling, but that song also exemplifies a significant fault in this album: songs often take a little too long to develop individually. Though tracks vary wildly from one to the other, each song as a singular entity usually retains one aesthetic and tempo for a majority of its duration and as a result, sometimes a song ends feeling incomplete. Don't get me wrong, the other two tracks I mentioned have some excellent, fluid transitions from chaos to more friendly and relaxed riffs (comparatively speaking of course- there is always an air of melancholy and tension to be found), but the dissimilarity between tracks breeds a little bit of inconsistency. Once you get over the initial "ooh this is creepy" appeal, the unchanging crawling pace can wear on you, but in fairness at the same time it's hard to see this as anything but an improvement over Mystical Beast because that album offered no real pleasant luxuries amidst the carefully assembled riff foundation. This is Blut Aus Nord, after all. It would take a really barren piece of shit for me to not give Vindsval the benefit of the doubt.
Most of the earlier work of this band tended to ease you into the eerie dissonance gradually, but The Work Which Transforms God tends to have it right up front from the get-go, slowly disassembling it into warmer and more coherent tones as the song carries on. Even when things are sparse, though, the thing about Vindsval's guitar work is that it always sounds like it's going somewhere. Every now and then, a really cool idea or feel arises out of the naturally leading riffs. "The Choir of the Dead" is one of the better songs on the album because the guitars almost sound like they're...moaning. Though the song in question is not particularly aggressive, the tortured wailing of the guitars as they fade in and out makes horrifying chaos only seem a few doors down the hallway. Though unsettling, the guitar fluctuates up and down as if it was attempting to convey some sort of divine beauty, failing due to its inherent rough surface like Quasimodo would entering a Miss America pageant. The rest of the black metal riffs on this album flow in the same vein as those on Mystical Beast with perhaps a slight additional emphasis on speed and complexity in order to create a more well-rounded style.
The vocals on here appear to have been outsourced to a man by the name of Taysiah, the only instance (I believe) where Vindsval hasn't done the vocals himself. Why another voice was recruited specifically for this album I haven't a clue, especially because the vocals are not only fairly similar sounding to Vindsval's rasps but also pushed even further into the background this time around. Many of the tracks are instrumental or feature very few vocals, and even when present they function as little more than a distant static complement to the keyboards. Some songs such as "Metamorphosis" also feature the occasional sickly groaning, but this is a tertiary frill at best. Their lack of presence may contribute to the abrasion and creepiness, but in the big picture the vocals neither add nor detract anything significant. Why was this new vocalist hired? why was he fired? The world may never know. Maybe he's a ghost or something.
It may have a lot of throwaway interludes (even in the non-interlude songs) and perhaps tricks you into thinking there's a really unique novelty in it at first glance, but the good still outweighs the bad at the end of the day for me. This was Blut Aus Nord's breakout album, though, and that being the case I don't seem to enjoy this album quite as much when I compare my experiences to the popular opinion. I guess, inevitably, a band with as much talent as this had to catch up to the hype train one way or another even if it wasn't for their best albums. Might as well check this one out just so you can see what all the fuss is about, even if The Work Which Transforms God tends to be revered for somewhat misguided reasons.
Note: this review is of the Appease Me Records version.
The zeitgeist of the end times runs throughout this material, blowing over the strings and out of the uneasy miasma of the discordant, dissonant feel of all of these songs. Enough "dis" prefixes for you? The "dis/Dis" however, as both in the literal meaning, "against", antipathetic, allied as an enemy, and the mythological meaning of a Hell, an underworld, apply equally to the distorted effect of this album on one's senses. If the Romantics believed that the artist [especially the contemporary poet] was an Aeolian harp letting the currents of the age, the spirit of the times, run through him/her and literally "inspire" [fill them with breath in order to sing or chant] their work, then dark romanticism is revived or summoned here with a series of tracks that evokes the images of modern industrial decay and lethargic ennui [the banality and oppressiveness of an ever present evil] as often as it does a sort of medieval, abstract, all-pervasive fear of the dark. The band classify their approach on this opus as "decadent purity". It fits. This album is as often traditional and comfortable [for black metal fans, that is] as it is groundbreaking and innovative. Interesting. The two dissimilar currents are blended, or rather: the old is used to comment upon and thrust forward the backward-looking, history-aware brethren and spawn of the new.
What noble and affecting creations can arise out of the decay of once-important artistic movements!
There is a massive Thorns influence at work here. Not just in the song structures, the use of dissonant, diminished or misaligned harmonic intervals [always just a half-step off in order to create a certain uneasiness in the listener, whose ears, weaned on classicism, cry out for major chords and clean 3rds], the inverted strumming or up-picked arpeggios [the entire central motif of Thorns, those ubiquitous reversed chords], or in the general melodic approach that strives to always keep both eyes on darkness and a view into the Abyss, it also appears in the entire progressive reach of this band, the way that they push general black metal paradigms into novel configurations in a search for a new [idiosyncratic, original, something they can call their own] style. The riffing is as much Burzum-like atonality as it is mirroring Thorns's clinical, detached coldness and cynicism. All of this from a French band who call themselves "Blut Aus Nord", which literally means in German "blood from the north" or "Northern Blood". As if their influences and objective weren't already clear! One will also notice the appearance of a few Corchado chords which can only be comments on The Chasm's place in metal, although that might just be a complete coincidence.
I wish the lyrics were in the CD insert here because it might enable me to draw further connections between the literary meanings in the songs and their titles, or between the words that Blut Aus Nord offer as a shroud over their beautiful style and the references the guitars are making. As it is I can not make out a single line of language on this album and that's just a shame. I have to calculate, interpret, and deduct only from the messages these melodies are sending to me. I might as well get my one complaint about this record out of the way here: the insert, artwork, and packaging on this release are just substandard. Framed in off-color monochrome tints the two-panel insert opens up to reveal a sort of forest path/stream scene which has been photographed and graphically inverted to appear like a negative of a winter landscape. The cover is a distorted and inadequate picture of the band's logo over another stained shadow backdrop or abstract color study. The entire thing is reproduced so poorly and at such a low resolution that it just reeks of amateurism. It was obviously done on a computer by someone who either was not skilled at graphic manipulation or who just didn't give a damn about the look of the final product. This is a shame because the mediocre packaging houses an amazing album, and I fear it might dissuade potential record buyers from at least giving it a listen. The record just deserves a better artistic/aesthetic treatment. On the back of the insert are the song titles and the name of the album, which are so badly tinted and buried by the botched printing job that I needed the promo advertising sheet to even learn the names of these tracks. Sad. Is this an attempt at being "obscure" or "underground"? Surely those ideas could have been offered to the listener by other methods of graphic manipulation? There are better methods of creating an impression of "obscurity" [mystery, profundity, power in darkness and the withdrawal from "obvious" reality] than just lazily rendering one's artwork in beclouded tones and bleared representations.
The album opens with a short ambient piece which is awash in distant murmurs and the echoing impact of factory metal on grating metal. After almost two minutes of this mood-setting introduction the first track proper, the excoriating "The Choir of the Dead" launches itself at your cerebral cortex with the subtlety of a shower room slowly filling with Zyklon B. What you will probably notice first are the ways in which the guitars do not pace through typical segmented, jointed, rock-based riffs so much as they ooze in serpentine waves out of the speakers in a poisonous gray fog that corrodes as it spreads, corrupting and rusting, eating away acidly at one's musical preconceptions and suffocating/choking one with their perverse originality. The basic motif is not the short sharp shock of the basic black metal riff, it's the drone of industrial music or power electronics, the echoing, slow creeping and changing black winds of Cold Meat Industry bands, the modern spirit of melodies that are so worn out and stifled by internal decay that they slush through the air and atmosphere and fall like a ashen chemical rain. It's also positively drenched in ghostly reverb to spread the attack across the inner horizon and make it appear to descend from all angles. When additional melodies are placed over this sea of cursed murkiness they are alien reverse arpeggios and perverse, eerie October harmonies.
As I said above, the harmonizing effects of the two guitars balanced behind each other [or in the left and right channels] is not traditional or compositionally "correct" [laugh] by the rules of such precepts which might apply to a classical art like metal, so they appear to be misaligned, out of step, sick, disturbed, paranoid, uneasy, mentally unsound. To put it another way: it's "modern". The main rhythm riffs are ceaselessly being manipulated by being bent, pushed, pulled back, warped, and knocked out of place by the tremelos. They moan, complain, and scream like winter winds whipping through the trees, rushing down your chimney or swirling beneath your doors. Fascinating.
There are also additional rhythmic effects or samples...in this first song there's a coughing, hiccupping cadence whose source I can not locate. It might just be a vocal or beat segment repeated or some kind of guitar effect...I don't know. On the ninth sector, "The Howling of God" [that title describes this band's entire sound very well, not just the resonance of the guitars], there is a pulsing "dance" beat that drives forward a central riff. It's infectious...it works. In almost every song there are overlays and hidden whispers of sound that eddy and float behind the obvious action of the main instruments. You just have to listen to the album a number of times to pick them all out.
On the second song, "Axis", there are vocal effects and choral tracks under the guitars, seemingly launching themselves out of the spirit world and trying to cross the threshold between realities that the guitars form as a barrier. In this piece there is also a nice series of lead guitar tones that are mixed just above the brink of inaudibility and which dance and caparison like a diseased funeral procession behind the black drapes of the lamenting rhythm strings. "The Fall" is another despairing, fallen ambient piece. "Metamorphosis", the next track, is a slow, wearying exercise in blending obvious, open rhythm guitars with an entire world of swirling, echoing horrors behind them. One has to listen to this song on headphones to really get the full effect. As I mentioned above, treat the "obvious" song structure and riffing that appears as the "real" song as just a curtain to be pushed aside and forgotten...what's really interesting is often what appears behind/beneath these disguising obstructions to the evocative arcane. The twisted, wicked, seemingly amateurish six-string pushes and pulls here, the bizarre crumbs and fractured segments of crumbling melodies, are at the heart of Blut Aus Nord's entire distinctive approach to black metal. What they are saying, deep in the center of this important [to the structure of the entire album] track is that this group is not afraid to try anything if it expands their expressive reach in a constructive fashion. Their idea of what "doesn't fit" on a black metal album is much tighter and closely confined that almost any other band, they have controlled it. They surely must watch it continuously in order to keep from falling into clichés, but that is the particular fate of the "progressive" band. In order to be a trend setter [or breaker] one has to be eternally vigilant...one has to watch one's self.
I especially like the slow bleating pinched harmonics which appear in the opening melodies of the lengthy "Our Blessed Frozen Cells", the grumbling voices of the dead and washes of chorus beneath them, and the totally original atonal riff first appearing at 1:01 with the industrial clashes behind it. However, there is just too much going on over the course of this album to attempt to label and catalogue every single thing they throw into the Blut Aus Nord manufacturing process. I could sit down and attempt to indicate and cross-reference every single sound and segment on this album, but I would rather have you listen to it for yourself. Believe me when I say that you have never heard another album like this.
When the completely time-honored, sentimental leads tones in the second half of "Our Blessed Frozen Cells" descend upon your startled senses it's like waking from a blurry nightmare. "Wait a second," you say, "this sounds like a conventional heavy metal band! Maybe even...Joy Division?" It's a mark of Blut Aus Nord's skill at composition that they place a stirring, soothingly emotional segment like this right at the middle of this war of discordance. It's an exercise in compare and contrast, a display of dynamics. It makes the traditional sound that much more soothing, and the "avant-garde" elements that much more bizarre. It's called song writing ability and album-building experience, ladies and gentlemen. There is a comparable [althought a little more complex] solo break in the climactic instrumental "Procession of the Dead Clown", which centers around hollow, cavernous guitar rhythms and a lead guitar that seems to be trying to sum up the entire experience of the album while it closes it and finishes it off.
I'm not even going to try to describe the rest of this experimental album. This is a genre-exploding and movement-defying release and it needs to be heard, not labeled and pigeonholed or filed away. Seek it out, listen to it, come to terms with it, learn from it. Enjoy it for what it is.
This was released in 2003 and then reissued together with the "Thematic Emanation of Archetypal Multiplicity" EP by Candlelight Records in 2005 for the US market. "The Work ..." is very different from the earlier "The Mystical Beast of Rebellion" and I suspect the band changed its approach to cater more for an alternative mainstream hard rock / heavy metal market in North America: the blizzard guitar drone attack and riff-based structures of "The Mystical Beast ..." have been replaced by cleaner guitar tones (with a resulting loss of aggression) and a greater emphasis on melody with less on repetition. The rhythms are still fast and the dissonant seesaw-like guitar chords remain, at least on the first half of the album. Overall the music sounds more death metal than black metal.
Atmosphere is an important element in Blut aus Nord's style and several tracks have plenty of it with much reverb as well. As the recording progresses, the music tends to slow down even with hiccups of blast beats and guitar-shredding, and long passages of melodic guitar become more frequent. There's more reliance on ambient special effects, a sinister feel and considerable bombast. The album is not too bad but it presents a mishmash of styles that suggests Blut aus Nord must have had an identity crisis during recording: black metal with death metal influences starts off the album which becomes melodic in the middle and then turns to sludgey, near-industrial rock with wisps of ambience throughout.
Were Vindsval and friends trying to make up their minds about how they should sound before an American audience who may or may not be familiar with European metal trends? Were they trying to condense 5 to 10 years of musical evolution onto the one album? Were they running out of ideas and inspiration? The final piece "Procession of the Dead Clowns" may provide an answer: it's a monotonous dirge of industrial metal with a ponderous beat and loads of echo taking nearly 10 minutes of precious listening time to make its point which most listeners, American and otherwise, will pick up in a fraction of the playing-time.
After hearing this album, I had the feeling that Blut aus Nord were drifting away from black metal territory, perhaps permanently. This is the first recording of theirs featuring more or less regular musicians as opposed to being a one-man or two-man project.
An original version of this review appeared in The Sound Projector (Issue 14, 2005 - 2006) which is no longer in print.
This really sounds different from the first couple of Blut Aus Nord albums (I haven't heard their third album yet in its entirety). In fact, I can't think of any immediate comparison. Sure, you've got the usual black metal screeching, blast beats, and the omnipresent drum machine, but that's it.
The layered riffing is still the focus, and it's certainly taken a turn for the bizarre. Harmonics jump out and stab you, while you are often jarred by discordant riffs. The guitar sound is one of the nastiest ever. In a few places where they do some midpaced strumming, it sounds like a chorus effect is used to give it a "wavering" sound. Song structures are pretty weird too, as riffs are repeated way more than would normally be acceptable to create an hypnotic effect.
One thing I certainly enjoy is the restrained use of vocals. This lets the savage nature of the music really come to the front, as well as enhance the already desolate and inhuman atmosphere.
A good lot of the tracks on here are ambient, one being complete silence. Taken on their own, they don't do anything for me. In the context of the album, however, they really work to enhance the cold, nearly mechanical feel. Some have labeled this "industrial" black metal, which wouldn't be entirely misleading.
I recently took a drive through central Wisconsin on a winter night, and had this in the CD player. The Work Which Transforms God is the ideal soundtrack for something like that, not for headbanging or moshing. Another prime example of the French doing metal their way, the best way: very, very fucking bizarrely.
It is quite difficult to describe the influences that paint this album, but here goes.
The music of 'The Work Which Transforms God' brings to mind the works of various different artists and genres. The constantly active, rhythmic and complex percussive structures vaguely bring to mind the frameworks of Cocteau Twins first album, 'Garlands', albeit much more aggressive and syncopated.
The manner in which their music is played out, or should one say, what their music evokes, has a transcendental depth to it that also made the early works of Burzum, Immortal and Darkthrone brilliant. The atmosphere of the guitars (the most prominent feature of their alongside said percussion) evokes a gloomy, almost post-apocalyptic dimension, not unlike that of the album 'Streetcleaner' by Godflesh, and as one might imagine there is heavy usage of reverb. One could also say that the guitar sound maybe somewhat indebted to early Cocteau Twins, though in the case of the reviewer this is not so. Then if one considers the manner in which the dissonant guitar chords are played out, one may also be reminded of 'Daydream Nation' by Sonic Youth.
Vocals are a Varg Vikernes styled rasp, and on some of the compositions we even hear almost shamanistic, and somewhat 'Tibetan' sounding background voices.
Songs that flourish in particular include the third track, ‘Axis’, which features constantly spiralling guitar chords, underpinned by complex blastbeats, then giving way to quick double bass and rather odd syncopated rhythms, during which part the guitars become more harmonized, with clever use of feedback as well.
‘Our Blessed Frozen Cells’ is a slow to mid-paced piece separated into two parts; it starts off semi-melodic, alternating between dissonant notation and feedback once again, with great success. After a break in which one hears a distorted, low-pitched synthesiser, the song then levitates, the guitars eschewing the usage of constant chord changes, using harmonics instead to create an atmosphere to give a dimension to the piece that echoes gloom and euphoria at the same time. Throughout the song it is underpinning by post-industrial inspired percussion, sounding somewhat akin to a hybrid of an anvil and a factory production line.
‘The Howling Of God’ is possibly the most ‘difficult’ piece the album offers. For the early part of the song, it uses a fast tempo with blastbeats, with the hypnotic, dizzying guitars doing their worst to disorientate the listener. For a while the song appears to make little sense. The tempo for the last two-thirds of the piece gives way to a mid-tempo, and an occasional dance-styled beat akin to black/industrial crossover act Aborym. The guitars work brilliantly, they are less melodic, yet are more playful, with some very interesting, and atypical use of notation.
‘Procession Of The Dead Clowns’ is an apt closer. It is also without vocals and in terms of musical structure, it eschews the idea of using constant or progressive changes, and utilises once again the textured and harmonized guitars that are one of the main aesthetics of this band’s sound. In the use of these techniques, one is distantly reminded of the German band Neu, albeit in an indirect manner.
Blut Aus Nord do not succumb to the factors that make most 'avant-garde' releases within the metal field a failure. All of these factors are converted into the context of a black metal style, without submitting to the modes and formulas of outside genres that influence the bands music.
This is a very worthwhile album; it is atavistic yet it is complex. It has the ability to sound humanized, ethereal and mechanical at the same time. It experiments without sacrificing artistic goals, as opposed to dabbling in other waters for the sake of 'open-mindedness'.
If you read my other reviews, you can see that for me the greatest sin is not being bad, it is being unremarkable (I feel the same way about films - the "so bad it's good" syndrome). For example, I always thought that pre-Electric Wizard band Lord of Putrefaction or the "Htaed No Tabbas" demo from GoatPenis was "bad" and amateurish, but that almost made them enjoyable for me on some level and I do remember them both. But generic, unmemorable, boring, dull - that is the ultimate waste of time. At least if something is "bad" you may find it interesting or be able to enjoy it on a comedic level, but to be uninteresting wastes everyones time, and life is too short.
Which leads me to Blut aus Nord's "The Work Which Transforms God". This album seems to be split between some atmospheric pieces, some vaguely metallic industrial styled tracks, and some aggressive black metal tracks. The problem I have with it all is not the diversity of the material, but the fact that they don't do any of it particularly well. This album struck me as insufferably dull and it was a chore for me to sit through.
There are tons of musicians who do all 3 genres better -
There are dozens of better black metal bands. Part of the problem is that Blut aus Nord likes to disrupt their potentially decent black metal tracks by "mixing up" the sound, but they are too brief with the decent parts of the song and drag out the boring parts much too long; "The Choir of the Dead" should have been about 2-3 minutes shorter and "Axis" felt like 7 minutes instead of 3 and a half. The other problem is that the songs that do not suffer from this are ultimately just not great songs. "The Supreme Abstract" wasn't drawn out too long but I doubt that this song will stick in my memory. The same can be said for "The Howling of God" which did seem to have a little more in the way of dynamics than some of the other songs, but was equally unremarkable.
Instead of listening to a poor rip-off of The Swans, you could just listen to The Swans, Godflesh or even Napalm Death and their industrial styled side projects. It is hard to play in this style and come off as heavy and crushing and not boring, which is what made The Swans and Godflesh special. Blut aus Nord is not special in this regard.
Finally, every metal band that tries to do ambient music should listen to "Soliloquy For Lilith" from Nurse With Wound, realize it will never be done better and back away from the keyboard (Paysage D'Hiver and Vinterriket being the only exceptions I can think off of the top of my head and even Vinterriket needs to slow down the release schedule and be more thoughtful with his newer ambient works).
Some people hail this album as genius. Maybe for them it is. Maybe it is the perfect musical elixir for their ears, after all, we all experience things differently. But I think maybe they confuse the willingness to experiment as being genius. It is not. To be genius, you'd have to do great tracks from each style, not just dull representations of those styles. I found none of this material worth further listening, and only did listen more to write this review. I doubt I will ever think about one of these songs ever again.
I'm beginning to get used to listening to bands who transform their style many times over a short period of time. It's becoming somewhat of a fad, it would seem. Bands are no longer content to put their fans through the same style time and time again. Instead they are opting for transition of a major kind. Blut Aus Nord are one of these bands, that's for sure. It seems they stick it out with one style for a short period of time before moving on to the next. Apparently, when the next full-length is released, it will mark a return to the old sound of Blut Aus Nord. This can only be a good thing, in my eyes.
Although I like how Blut Aus Nord keep their music interesting by switching it up several times over their career, I do prefer the old sound. Partly nostalgic, I suppose. Many people will be glad to hear of a return to old ways as some are growing sick and tired of this constant transforming. Blut Aus Nord are the chameleon of the black metal industry, no doubt about it. They change their colours to suit their mood whenever they see fit. I was hoping that they wouldn't turn into another Ulver, although some of Ulver's latest music isn't that bad. It's just not the same as it was and that puts me in a foul mood.
'The Work Which Transforms God' is perhaps the most significant showing of a change in Blut Aus Nord. The first two full-lengths were mammoth assaults and 'The Mystical Beast Of Rebellion' is somewhat of an enigma, but this one ... Well, it's more laboured. Perhaps that's unfair to say. 'The Work Which Transforms God' is incredibly different to the rest. It's more conservative. There seems to be a greater amount of effort put into the way in which the album sets about doing what it is.
Tremolo picking is out and darker atmospheres are in. This is standard black metal by any means. Perhaps the most stereotypical part of it is the vocals. Rasping screams of a tortured soul is what Blut Aus Nord portrays. They're as dark as the atmosphere of 'The Work Which Transforms God', which works very well. The rasping nature suggests sheer agony and anguish, this fits nicely into what the atmosphere aims to create. It's mystical and mysterious. There is an esoteric vibe running throughout Blut Aus Nord's music. Unlike before, 'The Work Which Transforms God' is a lot slower.
It transcends into darkness and takes it's audience with it. Almost every element is slow, this suits the style of vocals used throughout, as they are also slow. There are times when the pace does begin to pick up, but it's never sustained. This may disappoint some people. The use of double bass blast beats are few and far between. This does allow for more variation on the percussion side of things, which can only be a good thing.
The atmospheric soundscapes portray a vast array of images to it's audience. From experiences with the paranormal, to bleak forests shrouded in the consuming mist of sorrow and sadness. Emotive music is what Blut Aus Nord are good at. They create it with ease and are able to communicate the emotive side of their music elegantly and without forcing it upon the audience. Dynamism is subtle, but it flows through the full-length like the way water moves down stream through the wind.
'The Work Which Transforms God' is ideal for a night time listen. Either that or submerge yourself into it's dark tones and textures in a cemetery during the bleakest month of the year. Blut Aus Nord are passionately cruel in sound. This is usually generated by the keyboards, which play a major role on this particular record. They're constant throughout and are relentless. They create the atmosphere behind the music and control it with coolness.
I have obviously read through some of the reviews for this album before deciding to get it and must say that I don’t believe that this album is neither as excellent as some say nor as appalling as others claim. I would say that this album falls into the thin category of albums that fall into the range of being either overrated or underrated by different reviewers. I wouldn’t call this the pinnacle of Black Metal or the atrocities of some garage BM bands.
“The Work Which Transforms God” received this rating for several reasons. The first is that it keeps you guessing and interested throughout the entire album. With each new track and even within each track the listener is constantly being introduced to new styles of playing and continually is wondering what else can and will be offered. The tracks range from light and slow ambient such as the first track “End” and the interlude “The Fall,” to dirty Black Metal with almost industrial mechanical undertones of hypnotic proportions, such as the tracks “The Supreme Abstract” and “Our Blessed Frozen Cells.” The songs themselves and the entire album in general are as weird as the song titles and album title respectively. “Our Blessed Frozen Cells,” “Inner Mental Cage,” and “Procession Of The Dead Clowns” are titles that conjure up bizarre visualizations akin to drug induced states that are both eerie and intriguing.
The second reason why this album is decent is that it gradually improves as the album progresses. It begins sub par and ends almost momentously. The first couple of tracks like “End” and “Axis” were uninteresting and unmemorable, while later tracks such as “The Howling Of God” and especially the behemoth conclusion “Procession Of The Dead Clowns” were very unforgettable and kept you interested and coming back to it even after the conclusion of the album. It’s something about the hypnotically industrial undertones that keeps you interested in the late songs.
The final reason that this album is fairly decent is that it has the colossal finale “Procession Of The Dead Clowns.” This song can be depicted as hypnotic ambience by the use of repetitive slow bass and ambient slow keyboards. It is the best track on the album and is a great conclusion that leaves the listener ultimately satisfied.
Overall the album is decent albeit suffers due to the initial few tracks. However, the philosophical take on the album and the concept that was tried to be portrayed here, although clever, doesn’t really hit the spot. It’s an interesting take in a philosophical manner but eventually just doesn’t truly click, at least for me (for now). This album is definitely worth at least checking out as it does have its ups at least half of the time. If you are looking to try Blut Aus Nord for the first time however try elsewhere, perhaps Ultima Thulée.
This is just amazing. I was just stunned from what I heard. This album is so good, words cant explain it. The atmosphere The Work gives off is the defintion of haunting and cold. Forget all of your grim and winter-loving bands, Blut Aus Nord puts them to waste. When I go through BAN's discography the first releases were in the vein of raw black metal but is more of post-black metal and industrial overtones. Industrial as in programmed stuff not big techno beats.
Each song holds its own story. The flow of the album is also very well done. The way every song was made, it's like if you put them together, you would have one big amazing song. What else I really found weird was the feeling this album gives is almost like a doom band. Every little bit of this album meshes and puts together a musical masterpiece. The guitars have a drone feeling to them, each riff is insane and weird but the drums are what got me on this album. The drums are supposedly programmed but the way they sound is inhuman. Words can't put together the feeling I get when I think of the drums. I just slap myself and say "this is just way too good!" The vocals are just the same old growling, but come together with the music perfectly.
Well know since I praised the album enough and said it flows very well, let me tell you song-by-song. This album starts off with "The End" which is pretty much filler but is needed in this album, or well it would right to the music but for this album the song is fitted perfectly. Next up is "The Choir of The Dead," which is an amazing way to show off your musical talent in one song. This song possesses the most variety as it starts of fast and then slows down at parts. The vocals sound morphed and droning which is just so amazing. "Axis" is up next, the first minute is fast and then the rest of the song is slowed down. "The Fall" pretty much another filler, kind of a "break." "Metamorphosis" is next and this song is slowed down, but I think its really really good. Probably one of my favourite song and the guitars are really interesting. "The Supreme Abstract" is fast but what really let me down was that it didn't get across to me as much as the other slow songs did. "Our Blessed Frozen Cells" easily one of the best tracks on the album, very haunting, very atmospheric, amazing feeling to this song. I think this song and Choir of The Dead could be switched and still flow with the album. "Devilish Essence" another filler, but I really hate to call these songs filler because they help the album. So, its just another "pause." "The Howling of God" is awesome. Pretty much what Blut Aus Nord is all about. "Inner Mental Cage" is haunting, really the most industrialized song. Holds some messed up laughing, sounds and much more behind the music. The song fits very well with the title. "Density" 18 seconds of silence and then onwards to the best song on the album. "Procession of The Dead Clowns" pretty much the best song on the album. Even though its a instrumental it's VERY good. For all of those times I've said haunting, cold, scary, multiply those by one hundred and you pretty much get the feeling of the song. Procession... is the last song.
Thats what the album is about pretty much. There obviously a religious concept/background to the album that isn't really shown because...no lyrics. Even though I tried looking at some places, I got nothing. Other than the lyrics, the music surely puts up for the loss.
Overall, this album is ace. Nothing bad I can say about it. Pure genious. If you're into interesting music you should DEFINATELY get this. If you like old school black metal this might not be for you.
This album is not the purist black metal stuff. Blut Aus Nord abolished their melancholic, cold and distant landscapes and took a fiery, nihilistic approach. This is more of a black metal product, mixed with early Godflesh, and the song structures would bring to mind Burzum filled with all kinds of dope possible.
One thing is for sure: these guys are dummies, regarding their ideas and concepts (I mean I was a little bit annoyed when I read that tradition is regression; so they were sucky on their past albums...? Anyway, they ate shit, because their techniques were used by bands like Gorguts and Killing Joke). The packaging is very thin, not necessarily a bad thing, considering that the guys wanted the listener to be focused on their music. Anyway, there are some flaws on this album: the so-called ambient tracks are not very interesting (a little bit buried). Devilish Essence sounds as if Blut Aus Nord have started making background music for Discovery Channel. I really liked the guitar tone on this record. It is fuzzy and hypnotising, and the riffs really match the definition that was given, The Supreme Abstract. Although they are not complex at all, they seem to extend and shift, being given different nuances. The drums sound really odd, discontinuity also often pops up. Take Inner Mental Cage, for example, with that weird non-stop random pattern, the guys are fond of destroying tempos and reshaping them. The synthetic effects are also very well used here, with Vindsval's vocals they form a dark void of noise.
Recommended for the amateur sniffers. This album is definitely an acquired taste.
You are walking within the dark confines of a vast, subterranean cavern. You can barely see where your feet fall, but you are compelled to trod onward, even though you know there is no egress. Strange formless beings walk amongst the veil of shadows whilst even more bizarre…. things…. lurk in secluded corners, and mysteries given bodily (or maybe spectral…) form dwell beneath the water in the center of the cavern. Some of these things wander aimlessly, much like yourself; many seem to be moving, almost dancing, to some sort of tribal beat you can only just hear in the back of your mind; and still some stalk you from behind the shadows, spy on you from their crevices, and peep at you from the water. You know not where you are or why you are there, and yet you still proceed without purpose, moving without thought towards a mean of any kind. Throughout this whole ordeal there are sounds, voices that sound like something from the mind of a schizophrenic. You can’t tell if they come from deep inside the bowels of the cavern, from outside it, or from yourself. Maybe YOU are the schizophrenic…
This is the type of mental image I get when listening to The Work Which Transforms God. If you’re getting the impression this is a creepy album to hear, you are making a grave understatement. The band stops at nothing to create a frightening atmosphere such as has never been heard before, and succeed. This sounds like the soundtrack to your nightmares.
The actual music is too out-there to really limit to words; you have to hear it for yourself in order to understand it and what I’m talking about. Blut Aus Nord’s guitarist seems to have learned music theory either when he was having a bad trip on shrooms or whilst hallucinating in a rubber room, because his riffs are some of the most discordant ones out there, with a big focus on dissonant progressions and creepy high-pitched “leads.” They aren’t really “leads” in the normal sense of the word, they sound more like someone being tortured and recorded on tape. The chord-based riffs are odd too, what with the incredibly eerie chord structures and all. The chord sequences all sound nightmarish, while the single-note riffs sound the most dissonant.
Beyond the guitar, there is a drum machine and a (completely inaudible) bass. The band put the drum machine to good use, sometimes the beats are so weird and irregular I question whether or not it is an actual drum machine. I think I read somewhere that the band mixed programmed beats with actual human-performed tracks, which would be even crazier and would explain the irregularity of the drum patterns. The vocals are largely typical black metal, with a few deviances in the form of backround vocals…but more on that later.
What truly makes this album shine, and what adds to the atmosphere more than anything else, is the band’s excellent use of artificial noises, effects-laden voices, and other creepy noises as a sort of “sonic scenery” for the actual music, making an already frightening album into something truly hellish. These sound effects range from something you might hear from a sci-fi movie to what sounds like a girl screaming. Or it could just be a train with its brakes on full, I can’t tell. The range of sounds is diverse, to say the least: girls screaming, people moaning, other assorted effects that lack proper description. The whole thing is just so ALIEN, I don’t know how else to say it. It’s hard to imagine a human composing this sort of sonic landscape.
One of the reasons this album got so much praise when it first came was because it was so fresh. There weren’t any other bands that were putting out material like it, and still aren’t. Although some questions have arose regarding just how much material from that album was theirs (some have claimed the band blatantly stole ideas from some of Thorns’ early demos), most of these claims hold little water. Why? Well, because despite having some small similarities, the demos in question---Trøndertun and Grymyrk---sound nothing like The Work Which Transforms God. Yes, Trøndertun might have some passages that are echoed by “The Choir of the Dead,” there might be some dissonant chord that sounds a little like the one in “Our Blessed Frozen Cells,” blah blah blah. The resemblance is minimal, about as much resemblance as a cat and a dog have---okay, they’re both predators, they both have fur, they both have been domesticated…
There is only one gripe I have with this album, and it is a really minute point---the three ambient tracks could be a bit better. “Devilish Essence” is good; “End” and “The Fall” are not quite so good. They are by no means bad, and they don’t retract from the quality of the metal material at all, but seeing as these ambient pieces seem to have been taken into special consideration by the band I’d think they would have been a little better. But no matter….as per the often-titled “pointless” song, “Density”---I cannot really say much about it. I did, however, notice something strange---while on headphones it is nothing but eighteen seconds of silence, it makes noise on my computer speakers.
My three favorite songs on the disk are 1) “Procession of the Dead Clowns,” 2) “The Choir of the Dead” and 3) ”The Howling of God.” My least favorite is probably “Inner Mental Cage.” A brief analysis of the songs:
1.“The Fall”---ambient piece; not much to say here.
2.“The Choir of the Dead”---awesome, a perfect way to introduce the band’s sound. Some of the riffs sound like someone tremolo picking one note while slllooowwwlllly tightening the tuners, and the riff about 3:45 into the song is just awesome. The band use moaning backround vocals to perfection here.
3.“Axis”---one of the weaker (less emotive) songs on display, which just goes to show how great the album is. The first minute is the best, the rest is good but doesn’t standout as much.
4.“The Fall”---another ambient piece, named after all six tracks from The Mystical Beast of Rebellion. Can’t see the relationship, honestly…
5.“Metamorphosis”---at a slower pace than the tracks preceding it, this shows the band’s grasp on the high frequencies of the guitar. The band let the vocals and backround effects do most of the work in this song. Relatively easy listening.
6.“The Supreme Extract”---by far the least-accessible song on the album, this one is pretty sonically out-there, mostly because of the vocals. He sounds truly demented on this track, especially at the beginning and from 2:15 to 2:40. The backround effects are also…. err…**insert another synonym for “scary” here**. This definitely isn’t a good introductory song.
7.“Our Blessed Frozen Cells”---easily the most ear-pleasing song on the album, the opening riff is almost catchy, and the song is mostly mid-pace---no blasting here.
8.“Devilish Essence”---the only ambient song on here I like. But I like it a lot. Sounds very brooding.
9.“The Howling of God”---this song demonstrates an excellent grasp of variety and dynamics, with varied riffs and tempos.
10.“Inner Mental Cage”---imagine the 8th track done metal-style, and you’d have something like this; slow, brooding, and slightly frightening.
11.“Density”---not sure what you can say about 18 seconds of silence….
12.“Procession of the Dead Clowns”---my favorite track, and it seems to be popular amongst the fans as well as the non-fans. Although this is a metal song, it isn’t very metally. The band play single chords over reverb-gilded single notes that sound like a cross betwixt synth and feedback, but without going into completely random noise---far from it. These lead lines give the song its whole feel, even more than some of the backround noises (in fact, the backround noises are oddly downplayed in this song). The leads are simple, but they flow with melody, all set to a tribal drumbeat---this song more than any other makes me think of the mental image I painted earlier in this review.
In conclusion, this is easily one of the best black metal albums released since the early nineties, and should be in everyone’s collection. This band, more than Anaal Nathrakh, Aborym, Averse Sefira, Sigh or any other modern black metal band, will define the future of black metal.
Blut Aus Nord seemingly popped out of nowhere (in spite of having a few prior releases under their belt) with this album, instantly drawing attention for their inventiveness and originality from the deep underground as well as relatively mainstream listeners. It’s not difficult to understand why: the dissonance and wavering pitch of the guitars on this release draw in the ear immediately, quickly convincing the unsuspecting listener that this is music unlike anything they’ve ever heard before…
That specific claim is one I’ve seen repeated more than once about this album. It’s true and it isn’t. This album’s sound is not entirely without precedence. Clearly, Blut Aus Nord are fans of Norwegian black metal, and I think it’s fair to say that this style is largely descended from Thorns, whose early demos exerted a huge influence over the developing Norse black metal scene of the early nineties and beyond. Even so, that band’s specific style has become something of a lost art. There have been a few practitioners that have achieved some degree of success, such as older Manes and a couple of more recent American bands, but they had little to offer beyond what their mentor had achieved. This album does. I can’t name another band that’s matched this level of dissonance and abstraction within the Norse black metal guitar aesthetic.
Like later Thorns and a host of other black metal bands, this band has also included some industrial elements, but I would guess that’s more a matter of parallel evolution than influence from others in the scene. This does not sound “modern” or “futuristic”, and it will not remind you of electronic music in general. There is no similarity to EBM. Instead of being a gimmick, it’s a natural complement to their style – the slower moments of the album are marked by a mechanical, hypnotic beat, as heard in the more underground strains of industrial, complemented by the regular pulse of the atonal guitar “riffing”. There’s even some percussion in the background (you may miss it without headphones) that is obviously not being produced with a drum set – I hesitate to guess exactly how it is being produced, but it works well. Also lurking in the background are experimental dark ambient sounds. Not exclusively confined to intros and asides, they instead crawl across all of these tracks, enhancing the nightmarish atmosphere. In a few moments the band even indulges in conventional melody, resulting in some of the album’s most powerful and expressive moments – I point to the final track, a ten-minute droning instrumental entitled “Procession of the Dead Clowns”, in particular.
This band has a talent for connecting what might seem to be disparate ideas together in ways that make perfect sense. In a sense, this release is not entirely revolutionary or evolutionary – instead, it consolidates techniques that were seemingly almost waiting to be combined. They’ve taken a long sidestep away from what other black metal bands are doing and forged a unique identity, and so, are probably worth a look for listeners searching for new sounds in black metal.
This was my first experience with Blut Aus Nord and I must say that I was blown away by the sheer individuality this band possess amongst the rest of the black metal horde. Never have I heard an atmosphere conveyed in such a way that Blut Aus Nord manages to do it. The band is simply unique, therefore it is very hard to describe their sound. They are very intelligent when it comes to using both music and silence to express themselves. Blut Aus Nord uses the two opposites and forms them into one hell of a melancholy album called The Work Which Transforms God. What a fitting way to title such a creative and revolutionary album.
The music found here possesses some of the most lonely abstract atmosphere I've ever heard come out of the black metal scene. The guitars sound like they have a mind of their own and are going insane. However, what I really thought stood out was the fantastic drum programming found throughout the songs. Usually when bands use a drum machine, it sounds very cheesy and artificial, but Blut Aus Nord really made their drums have a distinct machine-like feel that couldn't have fit the mood of the album better. The drums give as much atmosphere to the music as any of the other instruments and in fact act as a driving force for this record. There are some tormented vocals found here as well that are quite low in the mix but fit the tone because it sounds as if they are coming from hell or underneath the earth. Production on the album is a bit raw especially on the guitar sound but still extremely listenable by all means.
One must really focus on release, giving it their full attention in order to get the full experience of what is being conveyed by the band. It is something to listen to alone late at night or on a drive through the woods. The music is very organic and brings out a feeling of a barren, dead world that has been decayed over time by man's creations. Very atmospheric and artistic. Reccomended to all fans of atmospheric black metal. Truly a unique and new kind of black metal sound.
I remember the time this album fully clicked with me. Driving through northern Norway, with a powerful river gushing a green storm alongside us, this album seemed to be at perfect harmony with the surroundings. Actually, this would seem otherworldly to the majority, and in context to society it surely is, but in my mind this is the musical representation of that river, and thus this album is surely more worldly than anything motivated by populism (this applies to pretty much all black metal though, really). Of course, that is an entirely subjective interpretation, I'm not sure if Blut Aus Nord had nature in mind as a dominant theme when recording this.
Disregarding the first paragraph for a moment, even highly experienced people in the realm of black metal would probably tell you that there is something distinctly alien about this recording. The dissonant, sweeping melodies could almost be "The Howling Of God". A pummelling drum-machine surges them forward. Like somebody mentioned in an earlier review, drum-machines almost always make an album less natural. Why does it work here, then? Perhaps this album portrays the isolation of nature, rather than nature itself, and thus the less-human this sounds, the better? It seems to mechanically symbolise nature's efficiency and power, and so rather than just giving us the image of an insignificant machine doing its work, it actually adds to the album's organic feel. The drums are not only superbly executed, they're superbly produced, and the same could be said for the whole album. Vocal howls and screams are present in the background, but nothing obvious. They're almost indistinguishable from the guitar melodies at times, and the subtlety works extremely well.
Like most releases I heap praise upon, this one creates ambience in abundance. Like all ambient releases, this one needs to be listened to as one, as it creates a "sonic vortex" which Thamuz describes. Silence is used to great effect, contrasting beautifully with the music, creating plenty of tension and adding to the haunting atmosphere. Indeed, one track is 18 seconds of silence in preparation for the epic monster of a last track. These things have already been reflected on by others though, so I'll move on.
Blut Aus Nord have certainly developed immensely upon the ideas they started in "Mystical Beast of Rebellion" which, to be fair, is quite a weak release in comparison. There's lots of variation in pace now, at times ominously slow, at times roaringly fast. The preceding release was completely devoid of this, which was its main fault along with it never really feeling complete or purposeful, which they've also corrected here. The discordance that MBOR explores is fully recognised on this one, and like I mentioned before, the production is more fitting too.
All that's left to say is: Pick up "The Work Which Transforms God" as soon as you can - it's damned good. Get the first two while you're at it, they're in a different style but they age better than this one.
A vast and silent darkness waits as the lone source of somethingness - life has not yet been realised, nor in fact has death. Into the inexplicable void came a faint howling, an unearthly humming, resonating from beyond the veil of darkness. Suddenly lattices upon lattices of ghastly matter encapsulated the emptiness of the void, filling it with a sullen, alienated sense of supreme beauty – an abstract far surpassing human cognition. This spawn of unknowable origin soon sprouted iridescence, giving birth to Life, yet still veiled its inner mysterious with complex irrationality. In such a way God was transformed into Nature and beyond, a part of all of us and none of us.
Whilst previously Blut Aus Nord with such works as “Ultima Thulee” took us through the reflections of the magnificence of an icy wonderland with neo-classical keyboard driven compositions, they try a much different avenue on this offering. “The Work That Transforms God” explores the alienation of Nature as an irrational being with all its feral meaninglessness. This task is undertaken by forging unearthly dissonance with industrial overtones to create a mechanical, inhumane and unforgiving soundscape that contemplates the supreme efficiency of Nature as an entity. The meticulous production invites us into an abstract world via the layers upon layers of otherworldly sounds – the deranged voices of ghouls bearing the messages of Life itself. It is not by accident that this sounds more akin to reality than anything does in modern society.
The instrumentation is largely minimalist and plods along at a pace that doesn’t go beyond a gallop, at oft times visiting droning tempos. This combined with the many layers of ghoulish background voices, and abyssal atmospheric presences that are virtually buried underneath the surface create a vortex of utter dislocation from the world. From this the song structures meander in and out of flowing “unmusical” dissonant passages, at times making use of more conventional melodic techniques to streamline into a different mood. The guitar sequences entwine together in the most subtle of ways - twisted in despondency, they howl like hellish winds. The vocals, low shrieks bathed in sufferance, act as another layer to the sound, blending in with subtle poise with the awkward style of the guitars. The result in a masterful song writing ploy that cannot be broken down into separate pieces, or even separate songs, but can only be viewed as a complete package – a journey of epic proportions.
The presence of a drum machine usually creates the feeling that the music isn’t natural, but it works perfectly here, fitting into the dark industrial laced theme with selective use of blast beats and a lot of slower beats that accentuate the mood. This artificiality is the perfect way of capturing the meticulously efficient alien being that is Nature. This concept is also conveyed with a few short atmospheric interludes that range from eerie wind tunnel effects to strange keyboard pieces. These barren wanderings take the listener to the void, after staring into such an abyss one cannot help but admire the imagination of this recording. We are here reminded that no matter how well we try to hide the darkness in our lives Death is always lurking with his ice cold touch.
The result of this sonic exploration is ambience in abundance. The industrial influences assimilated into the Black Metal palette create an atmosphere that is chilling, evil, yet beautiful at the same time. This is an artwork that is the celebration of esotericism, about self-exploration and transcending the social normality that prevents us from seeing beauty in Life and Nature. It is stunning artistic feats such as this that render claims that Black Metal is dead as outlandish. Blut Aus Nord, replete with imagination and a flowing spirit, are one of the leading members of a group that will see the next evolution of Black Metal as a worthy art form.
Vindsval has really done it this time. He's released the Blut Aus Nord masterpiece. I believe this will be one of those revolutionary pieces of music looked back on for years to come. A defining moment in the world of black metal/ambient. What is showcased here is a collection of the most eerie, evil music i've ever had the pleasure to listen to. But as Abominatrix stated, it needs the listeners full attention; like other Blut Aus Nord releases. This album somewhat follows the nature of previous releases, with the dissonant, twisted, repetitive riffs that scratch at your mind, the pounding programmed drums beating away at your skull and warped shrilling vocals from the genius himself. The album can only be described as black metal ambience; and can only be experienced in whole, uninterrupted. Density is 18 seconds of silence to prepare the listener for "The Procession of the Dead Clowns" . I sat for the duration of the song(and several minutes afterwards)not being able to move.. Almost in a paralytic state, my ears bleeding for more. I haven't been so captivated since listening to Lustmord's 'Where the black stars hang'. This is absolutely essential for any true fans of musical brilliance. 100 fucking percent.
Blut Aus Nord have been around for a while, but this is the first full length I've heard from the project, in its entirety. I had aquired a few individual tracks and although the basic framework of churning, dissonant riffing remained in tact, it sounds as though this album is quite a developmental step for the band. Actually, maybe saying that this is a developmental step for black metal is more accurate. There are a lot of black metal bands toying with more modern ideas these days, with some interesting and positive results and some downright drivel. Unfortunately, it's usually the drivel that gets the praise, and albums like this are more or less forgotten. However, I'm sure the man behind Blut Aus Nord is content with his fan-base, and he's certainly not catering to any trend to become more excepted, even though there is a distinctly modernistic feel to this whole album.
If the most recent release from Thorns was just too clinical and dry for your tastes, Blut Aus Nord are really where it's at. Though not quite as mechanical sounding as the recent Thorns output, there are definitely some industrial influences to be found here. If I were reading my own review at this point, I would be scared off, since I for the most part detest so-called industrial music, but believe me, this works. I was listening to this album last night and I realized that this is kind of like black metal's answer to Godflesh's "Streetcleaner". The programming of the drum machine is similar, the fact that both bands use eerie, keening leads that just knife at you out of nowhere is similar, and Blut Aus Nord's toying with some ambient noisescapes on this album is also reminiscent of early Godflesh work. however, the atmosphere created by Blut Aus Nord is not really the decimated concrete and rubble stylisms of Godflesh. This music is somewhat less obvious in intent, definitely more unsettling and of a distinctly black metal nature in that there is a very thick aura of mystery and occultism about the whole work. Vindsval's guitar playing is also quite unearthly in nature, as he likes to string together strange, discordant patterns and jangly broken chords like Mayhem or, again, Thorns, on some really potent psychedelics. These riffs, if you can call it that, can't exactly stick in your head, yet they're totally compelling, sounding so odd and twisted that you want to listen, to immerse yourself in the bizarreness of it all. If you listen too carefully, you'll hear all kinds of layers under layers of music, strange vocal noises, odd atmospheric effects and some of the most creative use of a drum machine I've ever heard in this type of music. I can't even begin to imagine the type of visions and thoughts one would have while listening to this under the influence of THC, but I intend to find out soon. This album really sucks you in, and just when you think you've gotten the feel for it, you'll hear some new compelling rhythmic idea or strange hypnotic bending of guitar strings. Those distant guitar leads are magnificent, too. They're given dominance on the final track, "Procession of the Dead Clowns", which is a stunning nine minute instrumental of repetitive percussion, melancholic synthesizer and the most artful manipulation of wailing feedback and ethereal guitar melody I've ever heard. This is really the perfect way to close the album, and I guarantee those sounds will send shivers up your spine and will leave you paralyzed for several minutes after the album has drawn to a close, provided you're in the right mood for this sort of thing.
Yes, this does require a lot of attention, and yes, it's really one work of art rather than a collection of twelve songs, and I don't think there's any way you can just play a couple of tracks and really get the jist of it. This is a work of craftsmanship and dedication the likes of which I seldom see, since every nuance is perfectly calculated it seems, to add to that disquieting and sick aura that pervades the whole album. Maybe some could be turned off by this, as it's not spontaneous at all as most metal should be, not designed for a live setting and probably impossible to replicate except in a very professional studio, but for me, this works, like a dark trip into the subconcious mind of a God poisoned by years of stagnation, solitude, power and madness. This is seriously the best "ambient black metal" to come out in years, and definitely the most original.