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The Thematic Emanation EP comes packaged most commonly with The Work Which Transforms God. It seems to be a one shot experiment in which Blut Aus Nord try to go for dark ambient with fewer metal and more trip hop and industrial elements. This creates an EP with a diverse if somewhat underdeveloped sound. It serves as a suitable companion to The Work Which Transforms God with a still dark sound that fits well with Blut Aus Nord and their ability for experimenting.
This EP bleeds atmosphere at every point. The EP opens up with a marching dirge with only sparse guitars and industrial machine sounds accompanying an imposing drum beat as we listen to Enter (The Transformed God Basement). The next song adds more prominent guitars and chilling background vocals to add to the atmosphere of the dirge as though we are descending into some menacing, ethereal prison. There is even something vaguely resembling a solo, but it sounds so twisted I can barely call it as such. The first two tracks are standard, chilling Blut Aus Nord fare to help introduce fans to the more experimental pieces. Level 2 is a trip hop track that provides a dark, icy, mechanical beat that one can easily relax to. You then move to Level 3 in which you are treated to a harrowing, yet strangely relaxing dark ambient piece which sounds like it could be one of Akira Yamaoka's songs. The last two songs make use of choir vocals, as if you are in some unholy temple hearing the sounds of long departed devotees singing as you go to Exit (Towards the Asylum). The atmosphere on here is palpably and soothingly dark.
If you manage to get a copy of The Work Which Transforms God with this EP combined. You'll have done really well for yourself. Though this EP is still worth looking out for on it's own, especially for fans of industrial music or dark ambient.
I probably never would have been inclined to review this EP even as I track through a (slow) chronological review series of all that is Blut Aus Nord, but it just so happened to be included as an additional disc of the copy of The Work Which Transforms God I purchased. I mean, it's probably one of the most insignificant little releases the band has done, and mostly just serves as a continuation of the material on the full-length that it was attached to. At the same time, though, it somehow clocks in at 28 minutes (as an EP!) which is longer than full-lengths of some bands, so it's not like there's a lack of material to sink your teeth into on Thematic Emanation of Archetypal Multiplicity. (Last time I'm writing down that whole title, like christ Vinny brevity is the essence of wit y'know?) Perhaps this is considered an EP because, well, it's just not dense. There isn't much stuff going on at any particular given moment. Even compared to Vindsval's previous songwriting, which was quite gradual, deliberate, and sparse in itself, this is pretty void and barren of content. It might be difficult to divorce this album from Blut Aus Nord's back catalog, but surprisingly enough, this somehow manages to stand on its own two as a distinct release. It's not necessarily the best thing this band has ever done, but there's an actual theme and a purpose to this album that slowly progresses and reveals itself over time, so I can't say I actively dislike it when it's on or anything. Do I find myself wanting to hear Thematic Emanation much, though? Not really.
More of the predominantly metallic quantities of this album have been stripped away in the pacing and vocal delivery, so that gives metalheads even less incentive to check this out. Unless you really, really wanted to see what Work would have sounded like if there wasn't a predominant metal aesthetic, you're not going to find much worth listening to on this release, especially in the latter three tracks. "Level 1" is the most familiar-sounding to the Blut Aus Nord aficionado, being a transition into the churning and crawling dissonance of MoRT while having a production that bears more similarity to Work Which Transforms God. The pacing is even less spontaneous than either of the two full-lengths chronologically surrounding this EP, which means the ideas are still substantial enough to cover the full duration of Thematic Emanation's running time, but only due to how long and contorted the riffs are and how slow the tempo is. The linearity of the music also supplements the long running time well. Even though this is some pretty barebones shit as far as music in general goes, there's still juuuust enough variance in the ideas to be able to hold your interest throughout if you really focus on it.
Things only really get more and more sparse in musical content as time goes on. "Level 2" relies on a strange electronic beat for the majority of its duration. While that's really not a lot to sink your teeth into I gotta say it was marginally interesting to try to follow where the off-timed snare hit occurs throughout the song. There's no real decipherable pattern to it, so the beat ends up being sorta catchy, but not very memorable. While I never really find myself gaining any sort of positive experience from enduring the song's runtime, "Level 2" manages to be about as interesting as an unenjoyable song can possibly be. Is that a compliment? I guess it sort of is because it's a testament to Vindsval's unbelievable songwriting abilities because he somehow manages to make something interesting out of little to nothing, but at the same time it's hard to give something with little to nothing going on any genuine praise. I can go on and on about how there's some original underlying artistic concept behind this album or whatever (I'm sure Vindsval could, too, given the thesaurus-rape that is the title of this EP) but at the end of the day, it doesn't mean jack shit how cool the conceptual frameworks of the songs are because, well, he didn't really do anything with the cool structures. If metal artists did remixes, I'm sure there could be a lot of cool shit going on related to the music here, but unfortunately, metal sampling hasn't really caught on amongst anyone whose last name isn't Braunstein.
"Level 3" somehow manages to have even less going on musically than Level 2 had, consisting of eerie echoes and moans for what seems like ages. Although it's certainly somewhat unsettling due to the drawn-out, dissonant nature of it all, there's really not a lot you can get emotionally out of this release. Thematic Emanation, at the very least manages to sound marginally captivating from a reviewer's objective standpoint due to its linearity--everything is well put together. It's just that the aesthetic itself is emotionally dry due to the clinical industrial music presence and the non-repetitive monotony. For that reason, I cannot find anything objectively right nor wrong with this, it brings me no pleasure nor disdain to put it on, and I can't even complain about it costing me precious money which I worked oh so hard for because I didn't even realize it was going to be included with the album it came attached to. I don't think I've ever found anything that has made me more emotionally neutral. Vindsval's strange compositional forms are almost beyond critique, but at the same time, they are only beyond such a thing because there is nothing here to critique.
These songs do not demand to be repeated; in fact, listening to this EP a couple times in a row for the purpose of this review has been kind of grating. But when the time is right, when the night is long dead but the morning sun has yet to bury its corpse and you have no clue what to listen to next, smoke a bit of dried plant matter and let the eerie atmosphere of the Thematic Emanation slowly seep into your hazy mind. It might give you a surprise or two, who knows. I'll give this an 100th of a step up from total neutrality because even as barebones as the music is, at least I could base the entirety of this review around discussing said bareboned-ness, so I guess there's some sort of value in that.
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.