Review: Blut Aus Nord – Memoria Vetusta III – Saturnian Poetry


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.

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.