Neon Dream #14: Blut Aus Nord – Epitome XVIII


The dream has to end somewhere. Science fiction seems to agree on that. Futuristic technology produces what biology could not: logic-based systems so functional and adept at survival that humanity becomes obsolete. Whether we assimilate into a borg colony or a zerg hive mind, imagination is pretty screwed. Our best bet might be something like The Matrix. Perhaps some utility will compel our robot overlords to spare the sheep who spawned them. Yay!

I cannot say what it must feel like to be enslaved by a post-human species, but I fancy it would sound a lot like the 777 trilogy by Blut Aus Nord. Between 2011 and 2012, these French black metal legends offered up a journey through a world that was beyond dystopian. Discordant melodies and unorthodox rhythms taken to the extreme are usually a recipe for disaster–the tools of technically proficient but creatively deprived math rock and avant-garde musicians I would only listen to under duress. Blut Aus Nord masterfully avoided that pitfall by envisioning a coherent aesthetic framework and driving the music forward as a consistent conceptual progression across 18 tracks. Radical experimentation joins forces with dark industrial grooves to place the listener in a futuristic, post-human world where mechanical gods rule apathetic over mortals bred in gestation crates.

The trilogy does not actually offer any textual insight into what its world is supposed to be. The minimal lyrics are highly esoteric, and Blut Aus Nord ultimately leave it to the instrumentation to tell their tale. You might not experience it as a futuristic world at all, but rather as some bleak corner of hell from which a lost soul digs through the madness and witnesses his overlord. But as far as it speaks to me, the 777 trilogy is the vision of a feckless human slave awakening from his dream into terrifying, incomprehensible world. He slowly comes to understand his master and, perhaps, ultimately assimilates into the hive mind. The final track, “Epitome XVIII”, is a grim, cold trance in which a soulless machine reigns on triumphant.

Review: Blut aus Nord – 777 Cosmosophy


Blut aus Nord generated a lot of waves in the metal scene last April when they released Sect(s), the first installment in their 777 trilogy. The album was a gripping ride through a vivid musical nightmare, merging industrial music and a particularly demented take on black metal to paint its demon-ridden post-apocalyptic landscapes. The Desanctification, released in last November, flew much lower under the radar. Lacking all of Sect(s)’s shock value, it was a more contemplative plod which capitalized on the industrial side of their 777 sound and presented the devastation inflicted first-hand on Sect(s) from a less intimate angle. If the listener was the victim on Sect(s), Desanctification offered the role of witness.

Cosmosophy, the final installment in the 777 trilogy, was released this September, and a lot hinged on it. Sect(s) and The Desanctification were drastically different and yet inseparable, the second naturally flowing from the first. How did Blut aus Nord intend to bring it all to an end?

In the very last way anyone could have ever expected: They repeated the exact same thing they did on The Desanctification. It’s a brooding, visually stunning bird’s-eye view of a cyberpunk holocaust, and as such it’s just as outstanding as its predecessor. But where is it going?

If Blut aus Nord released two albums like this every year they might well become my favorite band. I’ve been dying for this kind of material, and The Desanctification and Cosmosophy both fill that niche with a degree of excellence that surpasses all other attempts I have heard. But I guess for me the 777 series was telling a story, vague though it need necessarily be, and Cosmosophy just kind of waves that off. It’s an outstanding album in its own right, but it does not feel appropriate in the context of the trilogy.

Epitome XVII and XVIII are somewhat of an exception,and they’re the tracks I’ll be sampling here. XVII has a definite sense of conclusion about it. It’s not an optimistic one, especially given the lyrics–“How many seasons beyond this sacred life? How many treasons beyond this clever lie?” But the feeling is one of profound revelation, as if the listener in this nearly wordless narrative has finally come to see the grand vision we were all hoping Cosmosophy would offer. The transition that spans from about 4:20 to 6:20 is pensive, serving to reintroduce the darkness that resolution has by no means abated. As this fades and we reach the final track in the trilogy, you can definitely see the story coming to an end:

Epitome XVIII is one of the finest of those bird’s-eye perspectives on the greater 777 landscape, and in its context it offers something of a new, esoteric light on the devastation below. The outro that begins to fade in after the 7 minute mark is the perfect conclusion and perhaps the darkest moment in the entire trilogy, epic in its silence. Of Cosmosophy’s two concluding tracks I have no complaints. It’s the first three that get us there that leave a lot to be desired.

If you care to revisit The Desanctification, it ends on a completely twisted industrial groove that offers all of the madness of Sect(s) without any of the fear–a sense that the subject (the listener) is breaking down into utter insanity, becoming a part of the surrounding chaos. I desperately wanted Cosmosophy to pick up on this note. I wanted to hear a merging of Sect(s)’s black metal and Desanctification’s industrial that, if you’ll humor my manner of description, merged the victim and the witness into one. I expected a juxtaposition of the sweeping landscapes and the frantic madness that could, in the context of the trilogy, depict a sort of out of body experience in the subject/listener. Epitome XIV and XVI instead feel like unused (though equal) tracks from Desanctification, while XV offers three minutes of obnoxiously spoken French which quite frankly fails to invoke anything but annoyance before plunging into an outstanding but compromised semi-operatic sweep that could have found a place on the album but lacks appropriate context as presented.

Epitome XV is the only track I dislike in the trilogy, while XIV and XVI seem out of order. In the meantime, I feel like an essential step between Desanctification’s XIII and Cosmosophy’s XVII is missing. In short, Cosmosophy does not live up to my ridiculously high expectations. If Blut aus Nord were to come out with a surprise Part 4, I certainly would not deem it overkill. But if we view Cosmosophy as just another 2012 metal album there is hardly room to complain. It is only in light of the standard set by Sect(s) and The Desanctification, and in expectation that the conclusion ought to be the 777 trilogy’s finest hour, that it slightly disappoints.