Friday, January 4, 2013

Blut aus Nord

Previously known as: Vlad

Blut aus Nord & P.H.O.B.O.S. - Triunity
Debemur Morti, 2014
Genre: Black Metal

Blut aus Nord:
1. De Librio Arbitrio
2. Hùbris
3. Némeïnn
4. Glowing Phosphoros
5. Transfixed at Golgotha
6. Ahrimanic Impulse Victory

Side P.H.O.B.O.S.: ...coming eventually...
Side Blut aus Nord

It is not very often that Blut aus Nord participates in splits and at this point I'm just going to be getting all the material. After the return to Black Metal on "Debemur Morti", I was interested to see what this split had in store for us, especially with how strong "Light Eater" was.

Blut aus Nord stick strictly to a more mid-paced to slow style on this release. Perhaps they thought it would fit better with the other band being something akin to Doom. "De Librio Arbitrio" is actually a really good song and has a very different feel from the usual Blut aus Nord. Here we experience something along the lines of those awkward moments on the "Debemur Morti" style, but the drums underneath cater more to a driving beat, which gives the song an entirely different feel. They keep up with the dark brooding style throughout, but with the shifts to some catchier guitar sections and heavier rhythms from time to time, this feels like a really interesting take on the Blut aus Nord style. They've also vastly improved their drum machine over the years, so it feels really powerful and realistic underneath the Blut aus Nord style. I definitely like hearing this over the more Industrial styled drum tones they've overused in the past, however, I actually wouldn't mind seeing them switch between some of those drum tones and styles in songs. "Hùbris" was probably the song that captured my attention the least and I felt it was merely okay, whereas the other two tracks were quite outstanding. However, "Hùbris" is an example of the clean vocals done correctly in my opinion. Here they are used very minimally and eventually the voice switches to a harsh style making the haunting clean vocals add more to the atmosphere of the song. They also sit comfortably in the back of the mix rather than the forefront, which is usually a mistake with some of this material that many bands make, but Blut aus Nord are moving in the right direction here.

Overall, all three tracks are very good, but the first and third are my absolute favorites. This is, basically, what "Cosmosophy" probably should have been. Blending in this driving style with some of the more majestic and beautiful passages would have made for a very interesting listen, in my opinion at any rate. Either way, I can't imagine Blut aus Nord fans being disappointed in the material on this split and it is absolutely worth getting your hands on.

Blut aus Nord - Debemur Morti
Debemur Morti, 2013
Genre: Black Metal

1. Tetraktys
2. Lighteater
3. Bastardiser (Pitchshifter Cover)

It's not often that you'll see an artist release an album named after their record label. However, this is sort of a big deal for Debemur Morti, because this is their 100th release and marks ten years working within the extreme music scene. The release is limited to 500 copies. Sadly, the initial iteration of this release was misprinted and the album title showed up incorrectly. I'm not sure why this happened with the CD sleeves, because it looked like the 7" version was fine. However, anyone who ordered a copy of this later received a corrected version, so I can't complain about Debemur Morti's dedication to packaging, which I have always fully appreciated.

In many ways, when it was first announced something special was being done for the 100th release, I wasn't expecting a three song EP. I wasn't so surprised it was new material from Blut aus Nord, but I was surprised it was only three songs given how much output Blut aus Nord seems capable of putting out. Either way, they give us two new songs and a cover. The two new songs, I am happy report, are Black Metal, complete with harsh vocals and everything. I thought "Tetraktys" was only okay, it has a rather awkward feel to it with the dissonance creating a rather ugly atmosphere to engage in. It's sort of derivative of "MoRT" with that kind of focus. However, when we get to "Lighteater" we really hear something special. I really loved this song a lot. It had a really interesting atmosphere to go with the guitar line. It's a really beautiful track and it keeps that somewhat awkward feel from "Tetraktys" going, but for some reason it feels cast in a fresh light. The third track brings us a cover, which is quite a rare thing to show up in the Blut aus Nord discography. Now, I know who Pitchshifter is and I remember hearing some stuff from the 90's, but I never really got into the project. I'm sure Blut aus Nord cast the cover in their own style and it sounds quite good, but I can't say much beyond that.

I think this EP is really for the die hard fans that will follow Blut aus Nord almost anywhere. People like me, I guess. I'm definitely glad I got this, it has some fine material and "Lighteater" alone makes it well worth it for me, even if I didn't like the other tracks. So, if you were lucky enough to get a copy of this you got a real treat with this.

Blut aus Nord - What Once Was... Liber III
Debemur-Morti Productions, 2013
Genre: Black Metal

1. I
2. II

After not enjoying "Cosmosophy" too much, I was pretty eager to hear what "Liber III" had in store for me, since I really enjoyed the last two installments immensely. I wasn't worried about a style shift with this at all, because the series is heavily rooted in Black Metal and I doubted Blut aus Nord would deviate from that theme with the series at this point. Once again this is printed on a beautiful vinyl piece limited to an undisclosed amount of copies. This time around things have changed a little bit, in conjunction with the vinyl release a CD release has come out as well. Furthermore they released some the prior series. I wasn't too interested in the CD's at this point, my hope is that someday they will put out a collected package of the whole "What Once Was..." series.

As soon as the blast beats kicked in with "Liber III" and the far rawer production hit my ears, I was pretty happy to return to this style. If you've been following this series you basically know what to expect by now. "Liber III" has some wonderful moments on it, but I'm not sure I enjoyed it as much as "Liber II". I feel like "Liber II's" atmosphere was a lot more tangible and "Liber III" is performing a style that is tried and true. I'm not sure if it's gotten to the point where Blut aus Nord is just producing so much music they're not letting enough of their creations simmer to create something a lot more fresh for our pallette.

As usual this isn't an entirely bad release, but it just wasn't as compelling as the first two installments. Although, I love the snare tone they've chosen, it feels a lot more realistic on this release, that was a positive aspect that stood out to me. I, honestly, hope that this kind of a series isn't finished, where he thought of it as a trilogy. I really do hope there will be future releases in this vein, I will certainly continue to purchase them, but I think Vindsval should take a step back from the writing and try to be a bit more choosy with the riffs next time around. Let the ideas settle for a little bit. You don't have to release every piece of music created. "Liber III" had its moments, but there weren't enough of them in comparison to the first two.

Blut aus Nord - 777 - Cosmosophy
Debemur-Morti Productions, 2012
Genre: Experimental Indie Rock/Metal?

1. Epitome XIV
2. Epitome XV
3. Epitome XVI
4. Epitome XVII
5. Epitome XVIII

Based on what I heard with "The Desanctification" I was rather looking forward to the third installment. The cover alone is rather breathtaking, and with the usual strong effort I figured this was a shoe-in for album of the year, but this didn't even come close to even contending. I think I've only listened to this album once since it was first released, whereas I've re-listened to other moments in their catalog quite a bit more. As you can see by my genre classification, we're in for a very different experience. I'm not exactly against experimentation and pushing boundaries, but I'm really not interested in complete genre shifts and this release feels like an entirely different band.

"Cosmosophy" is quite a mixed bag and there isn't much in the way of Black Metal on here in the grand scheme of things. I really did have a lot of problems with this now that I am doing an analysis of the album for once. First off, where the clean vocals didn't work out so well with "The Desanctification", "Cosmosophy" basically only has clean vocals and this kind of ruins the experience. It just doesn't fit their style and if they used them minimally I think it could have saved the vocal engagement for me. The clean vocal style they're incorporating isn't bad, they go after a more chanting like feel and at times sit in the background of the mix, which is a smart move. But they just get boring after a while, because that's all there is here. The second track is just outright terrible. The first half of the six minute song is more of a Noise/Ambient blend with spoken word over it. I once saw someone claim this was "Rap", but that's crazy-talk and if you've ever heard Rap, it doesn't sound like that, even in French. After this it suddenly transitions into a song similar to the first, so even though it transitioned into something a bit more normal, the transition was so jarring, it just felt off-putting.

There are parts of this album I love. A lot of the guitar passages are extremely interesting and very well put together. Listen to how "Epitome XVI" builds and it is simply wonderful! For the most part the album has a very slow and Doomy pace. The arrangements, at times, seem to remind me a lot of Septic Flesh's more melodic elements, you know when they're not blast beating away and instead slow down for the melodic lead. "Revelation DNA" had a lot of things like this, albeit that album was terrible. "Cosmosophy" does a much better job compared to that album, but like "Revelation DNA" the dedication to clean vocals kills a lot of moments. "Epitome XVI" would probably be my favorite track if they didn't try to sing in a "rhythm" in conjunction with slow dissonance... it just sounds wrong.

I realize this is Blut aus Nord's way of trying to push the boundaries, but, for me, I did not enjoy this album. It has a lot of beautiful parts, but it also has a lot of very bad sections and this ends up marring the album quite a bit over the course of the album. The best track would probably ave been "Epitome XVI", but I have to give it to the well crafted instrumental "Epitome XVIII" spanning over eleven minutes of excellence. Again, this doesn't seem to be much of a Black Metal release, so fans should be quite wary when delving into this release. It's not going to really represent what has come before very well. The one thing I hope for is that this isn't a sign of things to come for Blut aus Nord and instead it is a blip in their discography much like "Revelation DNA" is for Septic Flesh at this time...

Blut aus Nord - What Once Was... Liber II
Debemur-Morti Productions, 2012
Genre: Black Metal

1. I
2. II

The second installment of the "What Once Was..." series is upon us, and frankly, I'm a bit more excited to hear this than the next full-length. With this release I think the series has garnered a bit more direction. They've re-released "Liber I" as well in similar faux leather packaging. The packaging is absolutely stunning and I'm really glad they repressed the first to match the quality of this release. Once again it is a vinyl only release split into two songs.

"Liber II" definitely picks up where the first left off and is a huge difference from where the "777" trilogy is going. "Sect(s)" is actually similarly in line with the "What Once Was..." series, except for the fact that I think these are even better. This series feels a lot more threatening and intense. It just has this underlying grit to it that the other, more polished, material doesn't. It also has this disturbing atmosphere at times compared to what "Sect(s)" had. They really strip out a lot of the more Industrial and experimental elements in the music and solely focus on generating the atmospheres with the guitars and vocals, which actually comes out very well. I think with that focus more care is taken with the choice of riffs being used, whereas I felt "Sect(s)" was really an attempt at recreating the faster sections of "Works" rather than focusing on an entire experience. The "What Once Was..." series feels more like a focus on a cohesive experience.

I truly am enjoying everything related to this sequence of releases and its almost a shame they are a vinyl only press. So, if you're not a fan of the Industrial or more experimental elements of Blut aus Nord, this may be exactly what you're looking for. I can find merit in both styles, but this series is proving very strong in my opinion in many ways. The layout and design alone are something to behold!

Blut us Nord - 777 - The Desanctification
Debemur-Morti Productions, 2011
Genre: Black Metal

1. Epitome VII
2. Epitome VIII
3. Epitome IX
4. Epitome X
5. Epitome XI
6. Epitome XII
7. Epitome XIII

The first thing that really hits the listener hard with this release is how blue the layout is. This is a quite a different design and color scheme compares to most Black Metal releases we see hit the shelves. Then it occurs to us that we just heard a new Blut aus Nord album this year. That's right, the second installment in the "777" series is already upon us. I have to wonder if the first installment was originally supposed to hit in 2010, but got pushed back for some reason. One of the confusing aspects between the two releases is that the first features regular numbers as the track titles and this one features roman numerals, I'm not sure why that was changed.

"The Desanctification" opens with a rather droning guitar line with a more Industrial drum beat underneath, not dissimilar form what was first touched in the days of "Works". For me, I think the reason "Sect(s)" gets overshadowed a little bit is because I quite liked "The Desanctification" a bit more. "The Desanctification" focuses more on building an atmosphere, shifting somewhere between majestic beauty and haunting ugliness. The fact that Blut aus Nord can shift these atmospheres around within the same confines is rather impressive. The track I enjoyed the least was "Epitome X", which is where some clean vocals started getting incorporated. I think the intention was for them to sound more "haunting", but they don't. They feel out of place in the atmosphere. The song then goes into a more chugging styled riff, which just doesn't work within Blut aus Nord's framework. However, this seems to be the only blip in solid cohesive presentation. The rest of the album seems to serve as an excellent piece wending its way through haunting and industrialized atmospheres, cast in a dissonant Black Metal landscape.

Now that I've experienced the second installment of the "777" series, I feel like Vindsval is returning to the days of "Works" and refining that music and rebuilding some of the progression. "The Desanctification" feels more closely related to "MoRT" in its grand nature, albeit a lot less focus on the dissonant and disturbing passages. Which I think is the point. If you were to go back and look at the discography so far when Blut us Nord first made its shift in sound, this is like producing a series in a way that might sound like a more natural and better direction. Rather than re-record and re-work what has already been done, why not do a whole trilogy celebrating what the musician has learned over the years.

I guess, in the end, Blut aus Nord put out two starkly different albums in many ways, but you can still hear the relation if you are familiar with their discography already. If you liked the more intense and frantic pacing of "Works" then you would, undoubtedly, want to focus your attention on "Sect(s)". However, if you really enjoyed the more atmospheric and slow brooding points of that album, "The Desanctification" offers you, nearly, an entire album in that vein. I really like the space this album puts me in and this is something that is rather impossible with the chaotic style of "Sect(s)", but here we lull things down to contemplate on what has been experienced before.

Blut aus Nord - 777 - Sect(s)
Debemur-Morti Productions, 2011
Genre: Black Metal

1. Epitome 01
2. Epitome 02
3. Epitome 03
4. Epitome 04
5. Epitome 05
6. Epitome 06

This is the first album on a new label and it also seems to be the start of a new trilogy concept that Blut aus Nord will undertake. This is becoming a theme with Vindsval... taking his creations and making them into their own series. I wasn't entirely sure what to expect with this, the "Memoria Vetusta" series seems to focus on a more epic and beautiful style of Black Metal, whereas the "What Once Was..." series focuses more closely on a vicious and fast style, so what would this series give us? The "777" series, so far doesn't seem to be vying for anything out of the ordinary for Blut aus Nord... and maybe that's why I just don't listen to "Sect(s)" that much.

Now, let me first state that "Sect(s)" is actually a pretty decent album, but for some reason it will never turn into a "go to" release when I want to listen to Blut aus Nord. I don't think I've ever really listened to it in that much detail until I sat down to review it three years after release... "Sect(s)" has everything that made us first truly pay attention to Blut aus Nord with their "Works Which Transforms God" release. In fact, I think that's where this album derives some of its problems. It feels far more like a "Works Which Transforms God Part II". It really does have an excellent blend of the droning atonal and dissonant structures amidst some fast paced and intense sections. In some ways the style has been further perfected with "Sect(s)", but perhaps I am biased and still in awe of when "Works" hit the shelves. "Sect(s)" feels like it has a far more refined purpose, with "Epitome 02" being a sort of outlier feeling more like an industrialized epic off of something found on "Memoria Vetusta II". The Industrial nature of "Works" shows up on "Sect(s)" from time to time as well, most starkly with the way "Epitome 01" ends. It manages to work out well, musically, just as it did the first time around when this type of experiments foundations were being laid by the band.

While I may not listen to "Sect(s)" very often, it is objectively a good Blut aus Nord album. It's not like "Odinist" where I, flatout, didn't really enjoy it. I enjoy "Sect(s)" when it is on, but it just doesn't grab my attention like "Works" did years ago. Though, "Epitome 06" really did grasp my attention and I quite liked that track a lot. I do think that if you enjoyed "Works", then "Sect(s)" will not disappoint you at all. In fact, many will probably enjoy the refinement that "Sect(s)" represents from the first seminal album.

Blut aus Nord - What Once Was... Liber I
Debemur-Morti Productions, 2009
Genre: Black Metal

1. I
2. II

Since I was following Blut aus Nord's career so closely, I was lucky enough to pick up an original press of this interesting work. A lot of changes have occurred for the production of this release. While some people may think it is trendy to release vinyl only releases now, vinyl has always been a part of Black Metal dating all the way back to the inception of the genre. The real problem with vinyl is that producing it can be quite expensive for the manufacturer and record label, so labels will only try to produce vinyl that is guaranteed to sell. Well... Blut aus Nord on vinyl is pretty guaranteed to sell at this point. With this release Blut aus Nord will enter into a new collaboration with Debemur-Morti productions, which has had a long standing career of producing excellent Black Metal. I think this is a far better home for the likes of Blut aus Nord than the more commercial Candlelight. Candlelight produces some good releases... but the care and detail with which Blut aus Nord can work on their art is certainly going to be easier with Debemur-Morti.

They herald in this partnership with this beautiful vinyl piece with all new material, limited to an undisclosed amount. With a band this high profile, it is rather interesting to see them putting out a vinyl only release. Judging by the "Liber I", it looks like this will build into a series. I'm not sure the series was well defined at this early
stage, for in 2012 this first installment was repressed on some of the most beautiful vinyls I own in my collection. (Pictured right) As you can see from the cover it is utterly stunning and designed to look like an old leatherbound book. Opening the piece will reveal some stunning art.

"Liber I" is split into two tracks that span around fifteen minutes in length each. These don't seem to be one cohesive song, instead it seems there are slight pauses between sections, so I feel like there are really about three actual "songs" on each side, but just combined into a single listen. This is some of the most vicious and intense material, I think, I've ever heard from Blut aus Nord. The Black Metal isn't slow and brooding at all, its hard hitting and very fast. The dissonant quality inherent in the Blut aus Nord style is certainly here, but now we cast it in a far more hateful vein. There are moments where things slow down here and there, but for the most part I was surprised at the overall ferociousness with which everything was performed. It was rather refreshing to hear this with the Blut aus Nord style, with the dissonant and strange scale patterns, the material has far more frenetic feel more so than ever. It's like a whirlwind descent into madness, rather than the slow and questioning kind of madness that grates over time.

I truly enjoyed everything about the "Liber I" release and I can't wait to hear the next installment in the "What Once Was..." series. The one thing I would say is that I would like the sections to build together more cohesively rather than cutting out for a split second to being a new piece. Either way, I think this is excellent work and if you ever wondered what it would be like if Blut aus Nord played slightly more traditional and intense Black Metal, then this will answer that question.

Blut aus Nord - Memoria Vetusta II: Dialogue with the Stars
Candlelight Records, 2009
Genre: Black Metal

1. Acceptance
2. Disciple's Liberation (Lost in the Nine Worlds)
3. The Cosmic Echoes of Non-Matter (Immaterial Voices of the Fathers)
4. Translucent Body of Air (Sutta Anapanasati)
5. The Formless Sphere (Beyond the Reason)
6. ...The Meditant (Dialogue with the Stars)
7. The Alcove of Angels (Vipassana)
8. Antithesis of the Flesh (...And then Arises a New Essence)
9. Elevation

After being a little underwhelmed by "Odinist" I was worried Blut aus Nord was writing themselves into a sort of rut, but then I saw the announcement of this album. The title alone gave me pause, because of having such fond memories from the first installment of "Memoria Vetusta". This follow-up to that ancient album was no small feat. This is easily one of the best releases in the Blut aus Nord discography and really feels like quite a monumental effort.

"Memoria Vetusta" is a far more melodic and beautiful album compared to what the band has done in the past. However, that awkward dissonance isn't entirely lost in the sound, they've blended it into a lot of sections. Parts of "The Cosmic Echoes of Non-Matter" certainly cover the spectrum of old Blut aus Nord, but it is performed in a vastly different way giving the album an entirely different atmosphere. At moments it feels like some of the riffing style of "Mystical Beast of Rebellion" shows up, but cast in a far more full manner. The journey in many tracks is certainly of epic length, but this is as it should be given the nature of the album. One of the strongest facets of this release is that, as a whole, it feels like a fulfilling and meditative journey. It has a sort of relaxing and mesmerizing quality, that is of a vastly different nature to the prior Blut aus Nord releases. I think this definitely fits with the concept of "Dialogue with the Stars", because you can easily imagine someone being influenced by looking up at the night sky and considering all that is out there beyond our world.

This is truly one of the more stunning and beautiful Blut aus Nord experiences and I was never really expecting it from Vindsval. It captures a lot of that contemplative atmosphere from The Eye, but in a far more dynamic manner. If you are looking for a truly stunning and introspective experience in Black Metal this year, this release will not steer you wrong and is probably exactly what you're looking for.

Bloodoline/Reverence/Blut aus Nord/Karras - Dissociated Human Junction
Panik Terror Musik, 2007
Genre: Black Metal

1. Voyage till Death
2. Scorn
3. Kristallkrush
4. Inner Phaze
5. Sextasysm
Blut aus Nord:
6. Part 1
7. Part 2
8. Part 3
9. Xenôglossy

Side Bloodoline: ...coming eventually...
Side Reverence: ...coming eventually...
Side Karras: ...coming eventually...

Side Blut aus Nord:

I think I missed this four way split when it originally came out, but seeing the line-up I eventually got around to purchasing this. The booklet and layout are absolutely beautiful, but I was worried about the Blut aus Nord side of things, because they had already put out a so so album in the same year. Listening to their side seemed very familiar and there were three tracks clocking in at only nine minutes. That's because I have heard his before! Blut aus Nord did a split with Reverence in 2004 with this material. While I won't complain about having the material on CD finally, I will complain about the fact that Blut aus Nord didn't bother to submit new material to this release. All the other bands on here have new material, even Reverence. Ah well... maybe it's for the best since the "Odinist" could have been better and writing more new material probably would have strained ideas in the meantime. Either way, if you missed out on the original split with Reverence, now you get to hear what Blut aus Nord offered up back in 2004.

Blut aus Nord - Odinist
Candlelight Records, 2007
Genre: Black Metal

1. Intro
2. An Element of Flesh
3. The Sounds of the Universe
4. Odinist
5. A Few Shreds of Thoughts
6. Ellipsis
7. Mystic Absolu
8. The Cycle of the Cycles
9. Outro

In Gorgoroth fashion, this album does have a long sub-title: "The Destruction of Reason by Illumination", but that's where the Gorgoroth similarity ends. I remember when this came out and I remember thinking is a really sudden release on the heals of "MoRT". I get the impression that there was not enough time between composing the two albums to make "Odinist" really stand out much. Over the years this is the album that I've listened to the least. Even the booklet design feels a little lackluster this time around.

"Odinist" continues to wend its way down the path initially established with "The Works Which Transforms God", but for some reason this doesn't feel as compelling of a journey. It's tough to put down why, exactly, but I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that there are few standout riffs throughout this release. The title track, has a wonderful riff in the beginning and that really standouts quite amazingly, but this is few and far between. Compared to "MoRT", this album isn't nearly as "tense" in feel and texture. "MoRT" had this rather disturbing quality with the way the songs were composed, challenging a listener with its use of dissonance. "Odinist" feels more like a safe release at this point for the project. Naturally, nothing else out there really sounds like it, but in the context of Blut aus Nord it just doesn't grab my attention in the same way. It sort of has that droning quality of "The Mystical Beast of Rebellion", but it just doesn't stick with me like that did for some reason.

Despite my assessment above, this isn't a bad release, it just doesn't grab me like the other albums. Only fleeting moments seem to grab me. I think if Vindsval had spent time really working out riffs that grab attention, such as the title track, this would have been a really interesting release. Instead he tried to keep the atmosphere disturbing in some way, but it didn't come off as astounding in the same way as before. I think a focus on riffs that capture people, rather than disturb them, would have made for a very interesting shift for Blut aus Nord. Unfortunately, I think this material was written too hastily after "MoRT".

Blut aus Nord - MoRT
Candlelight Records, 2006
Genre: Black Metal

1. Chapter I
2. Chapter II
3. Chapter III
4. Chapter IV
5. Chapter V
6. Chapter VI
7. Chapter VII

After a couple small installments, we finally come to the actual follow-up to "The Works Which Transforms God", which has probably become the new benchmark for Blut aus Nord. I remember when I first got this, I didn't really care for it very much. I think it has a rather different aesthetic compared to "Works". I think people were disappointed with this release as the follow-up, because it sort of stripped out the Black Metal and focused more on the strange dissonant guitar patterns, all performed through a very mid-paced feel.

I think the real lack of a fiery Black Metal essence is what initially turned people off to "MoRT", because even in the mire of the "Works" most dissonant pieces there was still some layer of intensity and viciousness. "MoRT" on the other hand focuses more towards an all encompassing experience, like the droning single track Ambient albums that are out there. I think "MoRT" is sort of taking a perspective on what The Axis of Perdition is developing, but with less focus on being furious and frantic, instead "MoRT" is a far more measured version of that kind of tense aesthetic. Here, I feel the band is building a sort of otherworldly disturbing atmosphere like we find in video games like Silent Hill, which influences The Axis of Perdition. "MoRT" seems to be a more measured exploration of that search through reality that is just somewhat off and we wend our way through it with all these dissonant structures that just don't feel like normal music should sound. Something is certainly "off" with the way this album goes, because the goal is drive a sense of disharmony throughout, but its pacing is also slow enough to create a similar droning space we find in more terrifying styled Ambient like Atrium Carceri. This is really achieved through a lot of repetition of themes throughout the album, which is probably why people didn't like it so much. Even with though "Works" had that droning effect at times, it was still a far more dynamic and varied album by comparison. "MoRT", instead", sits in a specific space and tries to develop more of a horrifying theme. I don't think the album comes off as "sinister" or actually "terrifying", but nor is that the goal, the album focuses around a sort of disturbing sound. This generates a sort of "terror", where the world is sort of displaced, from what we would normally expect and is not the same kind of "fear" typically sought after in movies. Instead it is more like the moments in Silent Hill when you go into that "other place" and everything is quiet, you think something is wrong, but you don't know what. There is a sort of "fear" in the unknown there, before we see the monsters, and I think that is where "MoRT" tries to stay focused. Its that quiet section where you know something is wrong, but do not know what.

I, along with many other reviewers, may have judged this release far too harshly upon first hearing it. While this probably won't ever become my favorite Blut aus Nord release, at the same time I don't hate it like I used to. My initial reasons for dislike had more to do with the fact that I found the release boring and fairly uninteresting, but now that I've sat down and thought more about what "MoRT" was trying to achieve, I think it is actually a rather successful release in that regard. It's a strange creature in the Blut aus Nord discography and unlikely to garner the fame of "Works", but it is a decent release in its own right.

Blut aus Nord - Thematic Emanation of Archetypal Multiplicity
Candlelight Records, 2005
Genre: Dark Ambient/Black Metal

1. Enter (The  Transformed God Basement)
2. Level-1 (Nothing Is)
3. Level-2 (Nothing is Not)
4. Level-3 (Nothing Becomes)
5. Exit (Towards the Asylum)

This was originally supposed to be part of a split with The Axis of Perdition. The Axis of Perdition piece showed up as “Physical Illucinations in the Sewer of Xuchilbara...” and you can easily see I thought that was a stellar release. From what I've read the concept was supposed to be based around something like the listener starts in the depths with The Axis of Perdition and as they rise through the grit they enter into a strange and decaying world which is where Blut Aus Nord takes up the story. So the album as a whole is supposed to convey some part of a dark journey into a dead and decaying world. However, due to the time frame of full-length releases the split never came to fruition because The Axis of Perdition’s “Deleted Scenes from the Transition Hospital” came out at an inopportune time and I believe the Blut Aus Nord material was not prepared as of yet, however, we see the efforts appear as separate mini-CD’s.

This is definitely a very odd release from Blut Aus Nord to say the least, not something that was expected as a follow up to “The Work Which Transforms God.” Though I will say I think this was a little better than the material they put out on their split with Reverence. Overall it has much more focus on the ambient nature. So the listener should not expect an earth shattering follow-up, more likely it’s not something they will expect and dislike. The strange part is that in “Level-1 (Nothing Is)” it’s got a distinct Blut Aus Nord feel. It features the odd dissonant guitar structuring, but it’s not distinctly Black Metal and is a bit more similar to the closing tracks on “The Works with Transform God.” Then by the time we get to “Level-2 (Nothing is Not)” there’s a complete change over. The music uses far more electronic elements than we've ever heard Blut Aus Nord use before. I wasn't very into this track, frankly. It didn't mesh fully well with the group of tracks found on here. It didn't sound horrible, just odd in the presence of the others. “Level-3 (Nothing Becomes)” is far superior in my opinion. It’s very ominous and trance like in nature. It has a very middle-eastern vibe to it and a chanting sort of element in the background. “Exit (Towards the Asylum)” sounds like something you would hear out of the movie The Exorcist. I wouldn't be too surprised if that was a defining influence behind it; either way it does sound very good and an excellent closer. An aspect listeners will, no doubt, find odd is that there are no Black Metal vocals used on this release. All the songs are instrumental except for the ones featuring chant sequences.

Another aspect of this release that absolutely stands out is the artwork. This is by far some of the best artwork I have ever seen on an album. It compliments the tracks on this release perfectly and gives this ethereal perception of a decaying world. The booklet and all the artwork is all done by the same person and merely portrays paintings of a city and so forth, but they are presented in such a way that they feel blurred and your vision just isn't right. It really emphasizes the overall decay “feel” in its presentation. I really loved that the most, which is odd to enjoy the artwork more than the music, but I've really never seen anything quite like this before so it was very tasteful and beautiful from my perspective. Furthermore behind the disc itself there is a painting and written above it is stated “Art has no limits.” Which is true, but to some degree there are always limits somewhere and even if that relates to merely an individuals limits.

Now onto something very annoying that was taken up by their record label. This release is not available in the United States. Instead it is released as a two CD set with “The Work Which Transforms God.” The annoying part about this is that “The Work Which Transforms God” was already released as a single disc unit and sold. So essentially you will have to re-buy the album if you've already purchased it. I took the extra step to track down the European release because I wanted the artwork and the disc separate, and I didn't want to repurchase “The Work Which Transforms God.” Either way you look at it the United States got screwed by the record label, which I think is stupid because they want to “capitalize” on a release. I realize I come from the nation that basically touts capitalism wherever it goes, but capitalism never was designed for screwing people over to make an extra dollar, that wasn't the initial philosophy. Usually out here that gives you extremely bad press and bad press to the fickle consumer market is not such a wonderful thing. I wonder if sales of the mCD were high or low in comparison to the European market based on this foolish stunt they put forth. Granted this was a wondrous deal for those who never got “The Work Which Transforms God,” but annoys those who already did. Vindsval, in a conversation we had, never directly authorized the release in that format. A similar thing happened when Vader put out “Blood” as a mini-CD. Their label released it coupled with “Reign Forever World”, which had been released prior. In an interview I read with Piotr, he was surprised they did that and did not think it was such a great idea either, otherwise, what is the point in putting out a mini-CD?

In the end it comes down to the music. The music on here doesn't truly contend with “The Work Which Transforms God,” but it holds it’s own for what it is. Like I said, just that one somewhat out of place track, but in the end sort of fits do to the dark nature of the overall presentation. Again, this is highly focused on the ambient presence and less focused on Black Metal, so beware for those who are strictly looking for the Black Metal. The artwork is a major plus on this release, a real stellar aspect if you ask me, and while I may not pull this out very often to listen to, I won’t rush to turn it off either, rather I will enjoy what it is when it is playing because in the end it is definitely enjoyable.

Blut aus Nord & Reverence - Decorporation...
D.U.K.E., 2004
Genre: Black Metal

Blut aus Nord:
1. I
2. II
3. III
4. The Flesh's Decadence
5. Nihil Process

Side Reverence: ...coming eventually...
Side Blut aus Nord:

After the monumental "The Works Which Transforms God", Blut aus Nord has released their very first split. Reverence only has a couple of demos under their belt so getting a split out with Blut aus Nord is rather impressive. This release came on vinyl and is limited to 500 copies, which I was lucky enough to get a copy of.

Despite the length of prior releases this has some of the shortest music I've heard from Blut aus Nord. It's also quite raw in feeling and production. It's kind of an odd release for the project, but the guitar work isn't too different from what we heard on "The Works Which Transforms God", but there is a much heavier focus on there being a Black Metal edge throughout the tracks. The third track is by far my favorite and it is also the longest. The tracks on here, I would class as mostly okay. The reason being is that Blut aus Nord tends to craft music that requires some level of atmosphere and it's just not something you can jump into for a couple minutes then get out of right away. I think this is the kind of release that exists only for truly die-hard collectors of the band. So, basically its for people like me, but it is not required listening by everyone.

Blut aus Nord - The Work Which Transforms God
Appease Me..., 2003
Genre: Ambient Black Metal

1. End
2. The Choir of the Dead
3. Axis
4. The Fall
5. Metamorphosis
6. The Supreme Abstract
7. Our Blessed Frozen Cells
8. Devilish Essence
9. The Howling of God
10. Inner Mental Cage
11. Density
12. Procession of the Dead Clowns

2004 Re-release by Candlelight Records pictured above.

It is not often that I will take a chance on a band I have never heard of. Lately these days I never get something unless I've read some reviews or gotten some feedback from the album. With this album I did things backwards, I bought the album then did some research on it. Honestly, I am ecstatic that I did this because every review I have read on this album has been the most inaccurate thing I've ever seen. The reason why I felt compelled to purchase this album was because of the title, “The Work Which Transforms God.” Needless to say the album title caught my eye and I had hopes that there would be lyrics provided inside the album as well, but alas I was disappointed to find nothing. I would love to read their lyrics because the music is so compelling. I will get into this topic a bit later in the following paragraphs.

"The Works Which Transforms God" really continues a further development of what was started with "The Mystical Beast of Rebellion". However, I think this new album really stands above the other with how tense the creation can be at times. This is an incredibly difficult album to pin down sound wise because it is like trying to describe how a color tastes. I have scoured the internet looking for some more concrete insight into the actual concept of this album. However, I came up with nothing, mainly because Blut Aus Nord’s official website is all in French and even though there is a button to translate it, it doesn't work. I am extremely furious, because I have spent hours now trying to analyze this album. A mere musical description of this genius will not do it justice.

A friend of mine, and I have been furiously discussing this album for the past hour trying to pin down what it is conveying to the listener. What does this mean? No one else out there seems to acknowledge this as a concept album, however, from what I gather it very well appears to be that. This is not some random hodge-podge of songs thrown together for our amusement. The scope and design of the album is bemusing for lack of a better word, but it contains so much more. I have used the booklet as our basis for searching for clues about this album. Now the fact that they were highly influenced by scripture is no secret, however, they appear to have taken highly evolved philosophies behind this. The front cover itself is quite compelling to behold, which appear to be random images, but upon closer inspection they all hold compelling meanings. It is obvious this album holds great influence from mysticism and deals with biblical works.

Blut Aus Nord have been referred to as playing Ambient Black Metal and in my opinion that is a pretty good way of saying what style they play. However, the sound is so much more than that, one of which cannot so easily be categorized. Granted there is quite a bit of Black Metal elements, songs like “Axis” are mostly Black Metal. However, as the album progresses it just gets stranger and stranger until you reach the end of the album and you are just bewildered by what you have listened to. I read another review before I wrote this and it stated that the opening track “End” was merely a useless introduction. However, in terms of a conceptual piece “End” is a very necessary track. It would seem that the band starts the album at the end. “End” the song should actually be the outro, but here it is placed as the intro, possibly because the Blut Aus Nord album is designed to cycle back into itself. Now I personally have never encountered such an impressive display of dissonance. It is by far the most ominous album in my entire collection. The actual songs cannot be pinned down accurately, as I stated earlier in the review. I can merely state that the overall sound production on the album is very different. It sounds like this was recorded in a cavern, probably due to a lot of the reverb that is on all the instruments. However, this only heightens the enthralling feel of the album. It pulls the listener in so much faster. Now I have recently discovered that driving while listening to this album is not the best idea. This album is so hypnotic and it gives the listener an incredible sense of being alone. I think this point is best illustrated when you listen to the closing of “Our Blessed Frozen Cells.” The passage at the end of that song musically is simply astounding and so incredibly beautiful. The album itself closes with an equally frighteningly hypnotic piece called “Procession of the Dead Clowns.” One of the more interesting song title choices in my opinion, for I cannot decipher the exact meaning and how it plays into the albums concept. Though there was a large narrative on this song on the Blut Aus Nord website, but again that was in French so I couldn’t read it. However, what I could make out was it had something to do with hundreds of animal carcasses left someplace. Therefore, that would most likely deal with ritual sacrifice, further playing into the religious aspects of this album.

The vocal work on this album is mostly done in a traditional Black Metal manner, but in the last two actual songs there are more screaming/moaning types of effects. This gives the songs a more foreboding feel and I’m not sure if there are actually any lyrics to these pieces. The guitar work is a simply impressive display of dissonance in music. All aspects of these songs give forth the meaning of truly being dissonant. Thorns are a band that made the use of dissonance a trademark aspect in Black Metal today, but Blut Aus Nord has fully developed it into a truly incredible art form. Now the drumming on this release is bizarre, which clearly compliments what the musicians were trying to accomplish. Some of the arrangements have the strangest tempo fluctuations and makes aspects difficult to follow. However, from an artistic standpoint this follows the true flow of their genius. The drums I believe are triggered, and some of the triggered bass drum settings are very interesting. In the middle of the song “The Choir of the Dead” the bass drum takes on this electronic feel, but it really punches through in the music and becomes the prominent instrument in the passage. These changes in dynamics are unusual in music in general, but I think used artistically as an accent point is very impressive. I think there are points where the drums are programmed at times, I cannot tell, honestly. If these are entirely programmed then they are using a superb programming system.

In closing, I merely want to say that this is obviously up for consideration for album of the year, and I doubt anyone else will come close to releasing an album this impressive in scope. Therefore, I recommend all people who want to discover what I have talked about in this review to give this album a listen. Granted the music is not for everyone, but I do hope many will be able to find enjoyment in how compelling this release actually is.

Blut Aus Nord - The Mystical Beast of Rebellion
Oaken Shield, 2001
Genre: Black Metal

1. The Fall Chapter I
2. The Fall Chapter II
3. The Fall Chapter III
4. The Fall Chapter IV
5. The Fall Chapter V
6. The Fall Chapter VI

Well, it certainly has been quite some time since Blut Aus Nord has conjured up any new material. “Memoria Vetusta” was last released in 1996, so that’s five years with nothing but silence. However, in the interim we got two releases from Vindsval under the name The Eye and Children of Mäani. Both are also solo projects from Vindsval, but, to me, The Eye is markedly better. If you are fans of the early Blut aus Nord releases, I strongly recommend listening to The Eye. With the return of Blut aus Nord, we have a very different animal on our hands here. This is unlike the prior two Blut aus Nord releases and I'm not sure how many fans of the early material will like the transition. Melody is in the distant past and Vindsval takes things in a far more dissonant direction.

From the album title to the imagery on the album it is apparent that something has happened with Vindsval over the past five years. Something strange has certainly piqued his interest and we now have a far more droning and tense release. With eerie ambiance between tracks, the guitar lines ooze with a feeling unlike the other albums. When one opens the booklet the first page states “this is the decadent work of another non-musical art.” As one flips through the booklet of all black pages until the end, when it states “dedicated to the memory of Vindsval.” I believe this has meaning behind it. Possibly interpreted as the old Vindsval who once composed is no longer living and the ways of the past are gone. This would certainly explain the drastic shift in musical style. Furthermore every song is entitled “The Fall” only separated into different parts. I don’t know if this is symbolic of Vindsval’s fall as an entity and this music is in tribute to his resurrection. All I know is that I get the feeling there is a heavier underlying concept from this album.

From the very first time the play button is hit the listener can tell that this is going to be a much more experimental opus than previous works. This album is easily ten times darker in essence than any previous works put forth by Blut Aus Nord. Guitar wise this album is extremely dissonant. There is not one beautiful note struck for the purpose of melody, which is what I personally find so beautiful about it. The closest aspect of melody I can hear is in the fourth song, when it goes into the second riff progression. It’s an incredible riff to throw into an album like this because it is so far removed from the dissonance. However, the pure essence of darkness is still exuded by the performance; it in no way hinders the conceptual basis of the album. The one aspect that was rather damning to the albums cause was the ambience played between songs. For the volume levels are quite low, so it is hard to pick them out at times so sometimes it sounds like there is silence between the tracks. This, I actually found annoying at times and forced me to break up my listening of the songs. I don’t know if the intention conceptually was to break up the songs so the listener could reflect upon what he or she just heard, but this may have been the case. Regardless this took little away from the overall nature of the compositions in the end, in my opinion.

In 2010 this magnificent album was finally re-released.

Blut aus Nord - The Mystical Beast of Rebellion (Re-release)
Debemur-Morti Productions, 2010
Genre: Black Metal

Disc 2:
1. The Fall: Chapter 7
2. The Fall: Chapter 7
3. The Fall Chapter 7

This wasn't like the other re-releases of Blut aus Nord material, Debemur-Morti actually gave us a real treat. The album art makes far more sense than the re-release of "Memoria Vetusta" and to add an even bigger incentive we get an entire second disc of material. Flipping open the digi-pak we see the original album art inside, but there is no booklet this time. There are things written in French within, but I do not know what they say. Don't be fooled by the three new songs under the same name, this is nearly another full-length with one of the tracks clocking in at nearly twenty-minutes in length.

Naturally, the new songs from 2010 are more in par with the modern works of Blut aus Nord, but I do sort of wish they were more closely related to what was first made on "The Mystical Beast of Rebellion", which is the one complaint I could have about the songs. However, despite not falling in love with everything after "The Works Which Transforms God", I actually quite enjoyed the new songs on here. They're not fast paced songs and instead follow the path of a more slow and brooding, while Vindsval picks off a wending dissonant style. The tracks don't sound huge and crushing like some slower material, instead they have a rather thin guitar presence that brings you into a rather tense feeling environment. The guitar works more as a disturbing piece of atmosphere and listening to the closing section on the second track makes me wish Vindsval would incorporate that into music even more. It's a very difficult element to describe, but despite being guitar it has a far more Ambient feel than what we've come to expect from Blut aus Nord and it generates such an interesting atmosphere. The twenty minute epic closer is quite beautiful and I'm getting a rather middle-eastern flair to the atmosphere at times. I would say if you liked the slower elements on "The Works Which Transforms God", then this re-release is certainly worth your time. Just don't expect the second disc to be a continuation of the first.

Overall, this is an incredible work of art, bordering on the non-musical as the booklet states. I must honestly admit I did not enjoy this album upon my first listen. Upon a more thorough listen I have found more merit than I ever imagined upon listening to this album. I will give this word of caution though, for those not interested in change or something wholly new to the scene you should steer clear of this release. If you highly valued the old Blut Aus Nord recordings in their melodic glory then this album will ruin your memory of the past. This is truly a revolution to the genre of Black Metal for there is no one else out there that can say they play something as mesmerizing as this opus. I am honestly very surprised that I enjoyed this album so much in the end and I can see others not getting the same thing out of it as I did. I think a listener can go either way with this album; you will either agree with me or disagree. There are even those who will think I am nuts for finding merit in this review, maybe that’s the case? Who knows? I can only imagine where Vindsval’s future journeys will take us. I hope that they bring us down a darker path of perdition and darkness, resulting in pure revelation.

Blut aus Nord - Memoria Vetusta I: Fathers of the Icy Age
Impure Creations, 1996
Genre: Black Metal

1. Slaughterday (The Heathen Blood of Ours)
2. On the Path of Wolf... Towards Dwarfhill
3. Sons of Wisdom, Master of Elements
4. The Forsaken Voices of the Ghostwood's Shadowy Realm
5. The Territory of Witches / Guardians of the Dark Lake
6. Day of Revenge (The Impure Blood of Theirs)
7. Fathers of the Icy Age

At the same as "Ultima Thulée" saw a re-release, so did the second Blut aus Nord effort "Memoria Vetusta I", which delves into a rather more pure Black Metal sound when compared with "Ultima Thulée". This is also where we begin to hear hints of the dissonant style Blut aus Nord would really begin to pioneer on future releases. Again, I missed out on the original press of this release and got the candlelight re-edition with vastly different artwork. In some respects the new artwork might make a bit more sense, but I really do like the original cover a lot more.

"Memoria Vetusta" generates a more traditional style of Black Metal and this is far faster than we first saw with "Ultima Thulée". With an opening song title of "Slaughterday" its pretty easy to see this album will be far more aggressive than prior releases. There really aren't any of those slow plodding sections, bordering on Doom, like we heard before. The keyboard aspects are almost entirely forgotten for this release as well, which may disappoint some listeners, but "Memoria Vetusta" makes up for it quite a bit with its approach to Black Metal. The music, at times, is harsh and fast, and has the usual vicious feel of Black Metal, but it is also blended with a very epic undercurrent. It is actually akin to the epic style you'd get from listening to Viking Era Bathory, but cast in a far more traditional Black Metal vein. This is definitely a different direction to take the band and really deviates from the original foundations laid by Vlad. Either way, the direction the project is being taken is very good, in my opinion, but it is hard to say whether this album is better than the debut. They really are so vastly different in style that they are excellent in their own right and I think that's the best way to look at these releases.

While "Memoria Vetusta" keeps up that feeling of epic that seems inherent to Blut aus Nord, its cast in a very different form and its likely that most Black Metal fans will find it enjoyable. Blut aus Nord certainly underlines the genres ability to have that feeling in various ways. Again, it is unfortunate that these releases have gone for such a long time being unheard, but it appears they are garnering quite a bit of appreciation from the next generation of Black Metal listeners. It still surprises me that I had never heard of either release in the 90's, the albums just must have never made it over seas.

Blut aus Nord - Ultima Thulée
Impure Creations, 1995
Genre: Atmospheric Black Metal

1. The Son of Hoarfrost
2. The Plain of Ida
3. From Hlidskjalf
4. My Prayer Beyond Ginnungagap
5. Till' I Perceive Bifrost
6. On the Way to Vigrid
7. Rigsthula
8. The Last Journey of Ringhorn

After waiting ten years we finally saw the re-release of this legendary Black Metal album. Strangely, I had never heard of them despite collecting throughout the 90's. You can only hear so much in a lifetime... the edition pictured above is the 2005 Candlelight version, which features different artwork throughout the release. Despite there being errors in the packaging, such as misspellings and not listing track six anywhere, I do appreciate that the new art tries to preserve some of the original feeling. The original cover really goes with the type of music being performed on this release. The original cover evoked a sort of raw simplicity and I think the new cover manages to convey a similar perspective.

Blut aus Nord sort of picks up where Vlad's "Yggdrasil" demo leaves off. It may seem strange having Nordic themed music come from this region, but Vindsval is from the Normandy region, which has a Scandanavian history, so it does fit pretty well. However, there doesn't seem to be much influence from the realms of Viking Metal on this kind of a release. Sure, I hear some remnants of Enslaved here and there, but for the most part Blut Aus Nord are really striking out on their own. While many say how impressive it is at such a young age, but this is not unusual in the history of Black Metal. The development of this style was already brewing with the Vlad project and it is only further enhanced with Blut aus Nord. Blut aus Nord begins to blend in far faster passages into the blend, giving it a more usual Black Metal reference, just listen to how "On the Way to Vigrid" opens. It actually has a rather Mysticum vibe to the riffing style at times. The slow sections that have a sort of Doom atmosphere are not entirely gone from the compositions, instead everything is arranged to work together.

It's interesting to consider the vast amount of praise being given this album in more recent times, meanwhile no one really talked about this release when it came out. I think this album has a, sort of, retrospective fame. I'm not sure how many people, at the time, could easily recognize how much this would influence the genre of Atmospheric Black Metal in the long run, but it really has. Reviewing albums of this caliber are always a challenge for me. I don't think this album is absolute perfection, it's quite amazing, but I think this styles perfection came in the guise of The Eye's album "Supremacy", but that's not to say "Ultima Thulée" isn't totally brilliant in its own right... it really is and for fans of the genre this is a must have release.

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