When Blut Aus Nord debuted with Ultima Thulee in the mid nineties after various demos, they were an incredibly talented, albeit fairly typical atmospheric black metal band, in the vein of Burzum and other similar bands. No one, perhaps not even the mastermind behind the band, Vindsval, himself, could have predicted that 20 years later, Blut Aus Nord, would have set the benchmark for experimental black metal. On his latest opus, Deus Salutis Meae, Vindsval has taken the dissonant, industrial laden blueprint that began on 2001’s The Mythical Beast of Rebellion and pushed it even further. In doing so, he has released his darkest and most oppressive sounding album in the last decade.
While Blut Aus Nord’s roots clearly remain firmly planted in black metal due to the raspy and shrieky vocals, and some of the tremolo picked minor chord riffs, to write them off simply as another black metal band, especially at this stage in their career is a grievous error. Once again eschewing use of live drums, Deus Salutis Meae owes as much to a band like Godflesh’s industrial pulsing as it does to Bathory’s melodic riffing. The record feels like one coherent thought, as coherent as a descent into madness can possibly be. The overall length of the record is not long, under 40 minutes, but the impression it left on me was lasting.
One thing I’ve always found fascinating about Blut Aus Nord is their esoteric imagery that while never over the top, pervades their aesthetic. On Deus Salutis Meae (from Latin for “God of My Salvation”), despite lyrics not being easily recognizable, there is a strong sense of something mystical occurring. The wailing and chanting clean vocals, the hypnotic, trance like rhythms, and the melodious elements built by keyboards, electronics, and other clever uses of ambient noise are truly transformative. And mostly terrifying.
Many people are divided on Blut Aus Nord. I know I have friends who wrote them off after Mort and Odinist; who find their songs repeatitive and their albums samey. I understand that. However, if you’ve stayed with them until now, I think you’ll be very satisfied with Deus Salutis Meae. If they lost you when they started introducing hip hop influences, or with their release of the 777 trilogy as canon albums when they were originally meant for an unrelated side project, give them another chance here. The darkness of their early releases is in full effect here, and perhaps more refined than ever.
The album kicks off with a short introduction, but then quickly launches into a stompy, down tempo, almost sludge sounding riff with the beginning of “Chorea Macchabeorum”, with electronic drums and keyboards forming a lockstep pattern that got my head immediately nodding. This was before the second actual song, “Impius” left me nearly breathless with a twisted, discordant riff reminiscent of Deathspell Omega, and vocals that sounded plucked fresh from Hellraiser, or the black box recording in Event Horizon. This is frightening music, not made to be purposefully scary, but just organically so. No riff or melody on this album resolves in a comforting manner, leaving every thought feeling unfinished, but not in a sloppy way, in a disorienting and fear inducing fashion.
Track four, which is in characters my keyboard cannot seem to reproduce is a slight reprieve. It consists of ambient noise, and sounds as if it’s building up to a nightmare. “Apostasis” immediately blasting forth and drowning me in atonal riffing delivered on that build up. The song has a very interesting break remisicent of his work on the 777 trilogy around 3:30 in, slowing down, and toying with more conventional melody.
“Abisme” again toys with the plodding sludge that was present in “Chorea Macchabeorum”, dragging along with an almost breakdown sounding riff to start, with clean, demented choral sounding vocals laid over it. It is again a reprieve from blast beats and dissonance, but it feels no less discomforting. This may be my favorite track on the album.
There’s no need to go track by track with the rest of the album. By the sixth song, the groundwork for the remaining four has been laid, and you know what to expect. In my case, it was that the rest of the album would be an ingenious and terrifying trip. Blut Aus Nord is my favorite band making any sort of permutation of black metal, and with Deus Salutis Meae, they have once again created nothing short of an opus. 2017 has been a banner year for music I’ve enjoyed. I can’t remember any year of my life with as many new records I’ve enjoyed by artists I’ve loved forever, or newly discovered. And out of all of those, this is the best thing I’ve heard all year. Tread lightly. This is not easy listening. This is, however, perhaps the band’s finest work since their critically acclaimed The Work Which Transforms God. Blut Aus Nord is completely peerless. A groundbreaking band that has never played by any rules. When the words “Experimental Black Metal” are spoken, if Blut Aus Nord does not come to mind for you, you are wasting your time.
Release Date: October 27, 2017
Label: Debemur Morti Productions
Favorite Tracks: “Apostasis”, “Chorea Macchabeorum”, “Abisme” and “Métanoïa”
For Fans Of: Axis of Peridition, Godflesh, Slagmaur, Spektr, Thorns