Many black metal bands claim they’re peerless or too brilliant for any “scene,” but France’s Blut Aus Nord are one of the few who actually manage to stand above it all, releasing some of the most triumphant and mind-bending black metal music since the mid-’90s. Led by Vindsval, the band’s reclusive composer, vocalist, and guitarist (and sometimes sole member), they are the black metal equivalent of Aphex Twin, in that never release the same album twice, but release albums that sound like only they could have made them.
Most bands are lucky to have one distinctive record, or even a derivative album just original enough to merit positive reviews: Blut Aus Nord’s trajectory, from the unforgiving frost of their debut Ultima Thulée (composed by Vindsval in his mid-teens), to the industrial nightmares of The Work Which Transforms God and the 777 trilogy, is nothing short of astounding. Their newest offering, Memoria Vetusta III – Saturnian Poetry, like the other albums in the Memoria Vetusta series—1996’s Fathers of the Icy Age and 2009’s Dialogue With the Stars—is an exploration into grandiose melodic black metal, and it’s not only the strongest entry in that series, but also continual proof that Blut Aus Nord remain unrivaled in this realm.
On the surface, moving in a more recognizable direction may seem like a regression, especially for an artist praised for an unrelenting march towards new territories. But Blut Aus Nord have far from repeated themselves here. As great as Vindsval was on Thulée and the other two Memoria Vetusta records, he’s a much more seasoned musician in 2014. Poetry boasts clearer production than the rest of Blut Aus Nord’s work, which better showcases how much he’s poured into this. He layers his guitars so they become the strongest voices, so much so that it’s not an issue that his growls are a little low in the mix. If pressed to find a standout track, a difficult task with a record of this level, “Tellus Mater” showcases his desire to reach the heavens, letting riffs soar high without falling into the overwrought “symphonic” trap. Except for an ambient “Prelude” and a bridge in “Forhist” that recalls Thulée’s more tranquil moments, this record hardly lets you rest.
Blut Aus Nord have always been about transporting listeners into realms they could not fathom themselves, realms that only an idiosyncratic personality like Vindsval could imagine, and Poetry is no exception. Instead of disorienting you with dystopian-future chord patterns and alienation, it overloads you with opulence. The beauty found here is intoxicating, but far from out of the ordinary, and you’ll feel a dizzying conquer’s lust coming out. This is most evident in the use of choral vocals throughout the record; they’re uplifting, and in the haze Poetry cloaks you in, you think they’re deifying you. Even in rapture, Vindsval can make a sharp turn into chaos, which he does by tweaking his guitar playing on the last two songs, “Metaphor of the Moon” and “Clarissima Mundi Lumina”, making his riffs feel more like apocalyptic prophecy. This shift is subtle, and you may not catch it on the first listen, but it gives Poetry a closing trajectory that ties it all together.
Vindsval’s also found fresh blood in new drummer Thorns, who’s played in a variety of other bands including Frostmoon Eclipse, Glorior Belli, and Deathrow. While he also contributed to Triunity, a split with P.H.O.B.O.S. from earlier this year, this record marks his real entrance into the band, and even with such huge expectations on his shoulders, he delivers a more than capable performance, showing he can meet the demands of even the most bewildering musicians. Poetry wouldn’t have made sense with Vindsval’s electronic drum programming from the 777 series—those records were more industrial, whereas this record is more recognizably black metal, and a cold, mechanical drum machine wouldn’t work. There needed to be something with some blood behind it here, something more “natural.” He needed a human touch, even if his music is otherworldly.
It’s also worth nothing that few albums do justice to their cover art as Poetry does. The cover was designed by Kristian “Necrolord” Wåhlin, most famous for the majestic sceneries of Dissection’s two classic albums, 1993’s The Somberlain and 1995’s Storm of the Light’s Bane, and the exquisite chaos of Emperor’s 1994 landmark In the Nightside Eclipse. Vindsval’s layered compositions compliment the hypnotic and intricate details of Necrolord’s work. Great music was made before the “album experience” and humanity’s need for music will live long after it, but it’s still always gratifying to see a complete vision like Poetry come to life, especially in a body of work as masterful as Blut Aus Nord’s.
from Album Reviews – Pitchfork http://ift.tt/12NAHa5