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I had this EP originally as part of a double set that included "The Work which Transforms God" and in some ways this recording does follow thematically from that album. The entity that was transformed in the earlier work undergoes a series of emanations on this EP, similar to what is taught in various forms of Neo-Platonic philosophy which teaches that the universe is birthed through a series of levels from higher to lower in refinement. The music reflects this transformation: the first two movements are bombastic sludge metal that's heavy on the reverb and atmospheric effects, and is very dreary and plodding on top.
After metaphysical trauma on Level 1 (that's track 2), the style becomes electro-industrial and heavily structured around machine-generated beats and a strong driving bass rhythm on Level 2 (that's track 3) as though the entity has enterred a bizarre macho heavy-industrial gay disco where patrons need at least three huge bolts of steel through their heads and limbs to gain admittance and order drinks of highly corrosive battery acid laced with jet fuel - the kind of place that wouldn't have Judas Priest man Rob Halford as a regular 'cos he just ain't metal enough. (Wow, talk about having an identity crisis at this point.)
At Level 3 (track 4), the music enters goth-ambient territory with funereal singing and Tibetan Buddhist monk chanting. Washes of sound suggesting ghostly choirs rise and fall in the background. In the final track a sudden hysterical violin flourish flashes by, perhaps indicating a fall into a deep abyss full of unpleasant gobbling creatures; the piece isn't called "Exit (Towards the Asylum)" for nothing. Well, welcome to Planet Earth, welcome to our miserable plane of existence, Whoever Thou art! Mightn't the entire EP turn out to be a cruel and sarcastic metaphysical joke? Jesus Christ Almighty!!! (Pun fully intended.)
If you chance to find this EP, you're better off with it as part of the set that includes "The Work Which Transforms God" as the third track is too reliant on dance-club rhythms that suggest some laziness in the Music Creation Department. You might even be better off chasing the band's earlier work online or through eBay or second-hand shops.
An original version of this review appeared in The Sound Projector (Issue 14, 2006) which is no longer in print.
Well, I must say I was reluctant in buying this EP at a store, but despite all the warnings I?d heard about this disc, I just had to buy to listen for myself. Surely the minds that conceived of The Work Which Transforms God and The Mystical Beast of Rebellion couldn?t possibly release a substandard piece of work. Right?
The EP begins actually as one might come to expect from this French act. Enter (The Transformed God Basement) begins with a short sample of a children?s choir before the drum machine and the guitars enter. The guitars have still retained that aura of eerie dissonance. Although here the riffing isn?t fast, but slower, like the ending of Our Blessed Frozen Cells. The drum machine sounds different this time around. Its hard to describe precisely but in some ways in sounds more mechanical whereas on previous works it sounded more ?organic? but the beats are in no-way one-dimensional, they still retain that unsettling feeling that The Work? oozed with.
The second track, Level 1 (Nothing Is), sounds like a leftover interlude track from The Work Which Transforms God. About a minute and a half in, there are two main melodic (but dissonant) currents that enter the song and almost seem at war with each other like 2 fighting dogs. I?m pretty sure one is a guitar and the other a keyboard. Unfortunately this only lasts 30 seconds but its one of the most striking sonic passages on this disc. Different sounds seem to drift in and out of consciousness, sampled vocals here and there and the song ends with some low-pitched buzzing and eerie keyboards.
So far so, good, right? Well, the third track, Level 2 (Nothing is Not) is a bit more worrying in terms of what future direction BAN may be heading in. It begins with some sampled drumbeats. A bass later enters but this in no way reminds one of the mesmerizing Black Metal opuses of the past but harkens more to Godflesh and other Industrial acts. It further serves as a reminder of why I have such a hard time tolerating drum machines. To hear Blut Aus Nord utilizing drum machines in such a banal way is a disappointment compared to this bands previous output. This track reminds me of the generic industrial music they put on soundtracks of sci-fi shows like The Outer Limits. Without looking at the CD, you?d never know that the mystical Blut Aus Nord recorded this track. To call this track a disappointment is an exercise in understatement.
The fourth track, Level 3 (Nothing Becomes) is another industrial track but nowhere near as awful as the previous track. Actually, this track reminds me more of dark ambient like Raison d?Etre than of industrial. It begins with some ominous percussion and strange, keyboard sounds. Some eerie (sampled) chanting is heard, sparingly at first but gradually increasing in frequency as the song progresses. At times, it almost hints of Tibetan-monk chanting. This song is actually fairly eerie and I like it more with each listen.
The short outro of this disc is actually pretty cool, but it can in no way compensate or distract from the fact that overall this is a disappointing release. All of the material on this disc is mid-tempo. There are no furious blast beats or breakneck black metal riffing. There are no vocals asides from occasional sampled ones. Therefore, it is difficult to call this release Black Metal. I hesitate to use some pompous terms that some are using like ?post Black Metal? or ?Industrial Black Metal? to categorize it but if I were forced to use a label to pin on this release, I would use the latter, but only reluctantly as asides from the guitar riffing on two songs and the band name attached to it, there?s nothing to associate this with Black Metal.
The fact that the first two tracks hint at the greatness of what Blut Aus Nord can sound like only serves as a reinforcement of the disappointment one feels after listening to the rest of the disc. On some levels this is as otherworldly as Blut Aus Nord?s previous work, but on a different level this cannot be favourably compared to this bands previous output. This is by no means a bad release, but I would certainly approach it with a certain level of caution. Indeed I can no longer say that I look enthusiastically to this band?s next release.