When Blut Aus Nord returned last year with the first of a trilogy – ‘777’ – it was as a remarkably different act than that which unleashed the howling horrors of ‘the mystical beast of rebellion’. Incorporating cold industrial elements the sound had shifted in the direction of acts such as Satyricon, Emperor and Thorns. Here, on the second part of the trilogy ‘777 – The Desanctification’, we see Blut Aus Nord move even further down the road it started out upon last time with opening track ‘Epitome VII’ recalling the stark electronic-augmented grandeur of ‘perdition city’-era Ulver.
As before, the most striking factor is the scale and ambition of Blut Aus Nord’s project. The ‘777’ trilogy is now two thirds complete and it shows Vindsval developing the sound at a ferocious pace. For sure the music is heavy but there is also a melodic sensibility and a terrifyingly heavy atmosphere which the band have drawn down over their music like a veil, so that even at its heaviest and most discordant you still feel as if you are caught in a web and about to be devoured whole. The music is hypnotic, ugly, pulsing, beautiful… often all at once and as the first track pours over you, building over its lengthy run time into a seething sea of chiming, howling guitar and guttural rasps, it’s hard not to feel as if some terrible fate is lurking just around the corner . ‘Epitome VIII’ provides some release by proving to be a searing, ugly monster of a track, the guitars caught somewhere between Meshuggah-esque complexity and Darkthrone-esque iciness. Complex, uncomfortable, the music is ice-cold, blackened to the core and o’er topped with a glistening sheen of industrial percussion. It is all but impenetrable and I fear for anyone who attempts to listen to this in the dark and alone, particularly as Vindsval throws in sonic curveballs to keep the listener guessing as to what’s coming next – each riff mutating and stretching with new melodies slowly emerging from the distorted hum and cacophonous noise before disappearing once more. ‘Epitome IX’ proves to be the calm before the storm – a gentle, lovely segue that lulls the listener with echoing guitar lines and the slightest ripple of bass before ‘Epitome x’ comes crashing in like a pile driver with crushing guitar overlaid with layers of synth and creepy vocals. A lengthy exposition, it covers myriad ideas over its run time and once again the guitars twist and conjoin until they become something else radiating beauty and menace rather than outright hostility, whilst the Meshuggah comparisons are once again raised with the time signatures becoming increasingly complex and agitated as the track develops. There is, once again, a symphonic quality to the material as it flows across you. Structures emerge and astound, never to be repeated and while central riffs and motifs may appear and re-appear, there is little in the way of conventional rock music structure offered here. Instead the music takes you on a journey in a manner reminiscent of post-rock.
‘Epitome XI’ is another swirling track with a psychedelic edge – the electronic percussion lending it a shimmering, inhuman feel – whilst the guitars froth and break against it recalling the cascading waves of a storm breaking against a great reef, the rocks black and slimy in the half-light and the wind roaring around you. Best played at a volume destined to infuriate your neighbours, Blut Aus Nord have crafted a work of blackened ambient music that is all but unrivalled and a terrifying place to become lost inside. ‘Epitome XII’ opens with a chiming sound before turning into a hypnotic, Terminator-esque stomp, the percussion never once betraying a human element whilst the guitars spiral ever closer to the edge of control. ‘Epitome XIII’ is a more traditional black metal offering – albeit a slow-burning, soul-raping offering with howling guitars and guttural vocals conjuring an atmosphere of pure visceral horror and creeping suffering – a feeling reinforced by the hellish electronic that rounds out the track.
Clocking in at 43 minutes, ‘Desanctification’ crams so many ideas and influences into the space available that it ends up feeling far longer. The sounds, moods and atmospheres are all deeply ingrained to the piece and, like the first record, this is not just something to dip into – rather it needs to be worked through with each piece supporting the others around it. The music represents beauty and madness, fragility and strength, terror and determination and it’s a remarkable work – a piece that has far more in common with the classical genre than that of traditional metal. Here you will find no choruses, no hooks – indeed, even vocals are rare although used for great effect when they do appear. Utilising elements from post-rock, ambient, industrial and black metal Vindsval has followed up ‘Sect(s)’ with another remarkable and unique release. It is hard to imagine the third, and concluding chapter, beating this, but then given the tangential arc of development thus far I would not be surprised if it does. A remarkable sequel to a remarkable album – Blut Aus Nor may just be one of the most important black metal acts functioning today.