I am definitely not a time-honored, faithful fan of Blut Aus Nord. They managed to evade my radar for over 15 years before the 777 trilogy brought them into the broader spotlight. Sect(s) impressed me from the start, but in a twisted, bewildering way that was not necessarily enjoyable. It was a car accident you slowed down to gawk at in spite of your better judgment. It was a disturbing feast of dementia. I did not hop on The Desanctification right away, naively expecting more of the same, and it was only with Cosmosophy that I finally caught on to just how intelligent and creative Blut Aus Nord could be.
I didn’t go back in time and pick up their classics, but I did eagerly await their next album with zero assumptions about where it might go. This seemed like a band that could do anything they set their mind to, and judging by Kristian Wåhlin’s cover art, it would be something fairly distinct from 777.
Blut Aus Nord – Paien, from Memoria Vetusta III – Saturnian Poetry
What I found was an album that kept a lot of basic elements intact, but, sure enough, sounded nothing like 777‘s cyberpunk journey through a hellspawn-ridden hive mind. Saturnian Poetry feels like much more traditional black metal on the surface, though you will be hard pressed to write it off as such. It takes about five seconds to realize that the blurred tremolo will not be content to loop into any stereotypical black metal monotony. The song jerks upward in a frantic fit, and by the 40 second mark we’re already on to a new rotation. Celestial keyboard “aaahhhs” and a barely sane pattern of motion rip your eyes wide open, and the clean, ethereal vocals at 1:20 tower above as an apathetic higher being uninterested in quelling the chaos beneath it. When the blast beats and constant motion do break, it is never long enough to calm the mood. It is an avant-garde, progressive approach to black metal that I can only compare to Krallice, only where they remain raw and brutal to a fault, Blut Aus Nord mellow out the drumming and keep the eye of a graceful keyboard looming ever above you.
You are being watched as you thrash about into empty space as hard as steel. We don’t know what that eye wants, but we sometimes catch a glimpse of its perspective, as at 5:10, as the beat slows to a plod and the sweeping guitar takes in a vast vision far beyond your natural senses.
Blut Aus Nord – Metaphor of the Moon, from Memoria Vetusta III – Saturnian Poetry
Blut Aus Nord is a band you can sense beyond the limitations of your ears. That was something that struck me from the first time I ever listened to Epitomes 1 and 2 on Sect(s). Where so many experimental black metal bands aim to invoke a feeling, Blut Aus Nord paint a sensory world. The motion of the guitar is so pronounced that you feel the notes cascading around you. Metaphor of the Moon opens amidst a tornado, everything spiraling downward in a rush of energy that encircles you. Wherever their songs might be headed, I tend to feel trapped within them in body–some twisted wonderland where keyboard and clean vocal spirits gaze upon me and invisible forces and amalgamations of lead guitar swoop all around, discernible only through some super-sense that informs me of their presence without ever forming a solid image.
But if I had to pick a fault in Saturnian Poetry, it would be the overly traditional percussion. Beats carried the day in the 777 trilogy. The band’s experimentation with unconventional drum tones added the final layer needed to complete the unique quasi-physical world of their music. On Saturnian Poetry, the lack of this element serves as an occasional reminder that I am, after all, only listening to a song. “Metaphor of the Moon” is the track that seems to extend beyond my attention span the most, at least to a point. I can latch on to it at just about any moment if I choose to, but it sometimes fails to hold me long without some effort on my part.
Blut Aus Nord – Clarissima Mundi Lumina, from Memoria Vetusta III – Saturnian Poetry
That being said, these guys are a clear cut above the vast majority of their competition in the black metal scene. It is hard to believe that France, once known for the raw and unadorned acts of Les Légions Noires, could give us three of the most significant post-black bands of our time, but Blut Aus Nord, Peste Noire, and Alcest surely stand as a triumvirate of progression and experimentation in 21st century metal. Saturn Poetry will never top the 777 trilogy in my books, and generic drumming is to blame first and foremost. Yet I’ll not soon forget a closing track like this–the listener sacrificing himself to madness, screaming towards that eye above, catching unintelligible glimpses that only make his violence more desperate. It never ends, never finds resolution, just continues to implode in perpetual waves of self-destruction. I don’t know that the song, or the album as a whole, has any clear passage. There is no apparent journey here or grand enlightenment at the end, though perhaps I ought to find the first two Memoria Vetusta albums before I pass judgment. Either way, Saturnian Poetry is another shattered window into that twisted, imaginative world that only these French masters can conjure. Whether I see in it precisely what the band intended or not, I definitely see something words cannot easily describe.
It’s also worth mentioning the Debemur MoRTi EP released earlier this year. It offers a unique cover of “Bastardiser” by Pitchshifter that I think you will all appreciate.