My good friend Tori is amazing in her diligent searches for new and experimental metal. Honestly, if it wasn’t for her I wouldn’t have heard hardly any of the newer stuff that I’ve become so fond of. She got me into Fen, has kept me abreast in the evolution of Dimmu Borgir, introduced me to the atmospherics of Ulver and has found reissues of everything from Mayhem to Anti-Simex. Recently she lent me a double album by French group Blut Aus Nord entitled The Work Which Transforms God. There’s two discs on this one and the first stuff I heard was off the second disc, entitled Thematic Emanations Of Archetypal Multiplicity (say that three times fast) and it grabbed me right away for the fact that it was not necessarily what one would expect from a purportedly ‘black metal’ band ( a tag the band itself resists musically if not completely conceptually).
As I said, ..Archetypal Multiplicity is the second disc and it is meant to accompany the concept of the first, the aforementioned The Work Which Transforms God, which it is does by relaying five instrumental, atmospheric soundscapes that conjure a dark and fiery plaguescape with droning guitars, lush, layered effects and samples, and slabbing, perhaps one could even say, on occasion, slathering drums. The second track especially caught my ear, as upon spiraling down along with it on its slide into hell it quickly becomes apparent that Vindsval, the main (and originally only) member of the group is a HUGE Godflesh fan. There’s a certain… call it sickness that Justin Broadrick and crew create on the earlier Godflesh releases. Guitars whine in echo-drenched pain, drums pound like demons battering to break through the walls of our world and the vocals exist somewhere between the tortured and the torturer. Blut Aus Nord create a similar sickness with impressively poignant dissonant chord structures, almost non-sequiter drum patterns and vocals that grind and growl often down below the dreamy (nightmare more like it), reverb and echo wash that coats most everything. Moving into the album proper, after brief intro track ‘End‘, ‘Choir of the Dead‘ begins and at first listen it almost sounds terribly inept and thin. Honestly, there is not a lot of low end in this mix, and that takes a bit to get used to if you’re coming over from that second disc, which track for track has a bit warmer of a mix. My initial reaction to ‘Choir of the Dead‘ was that I was not going to like the band’s actual music, as opposed to those mouth watering soundscapes, at all. However, the best stuff is often that which is so different it grates against us at first, only to be unearthed and understood after time spent investigating it. I have a feeling this holds true for all of Blut Aus Nord’s music.
It is music such as this that is what headphones and postponement of judgment is for; I sat in the darkness of my living room with my posh studio headphones on and directed my full attention into the music, challenging Vindsval and crew to do their worst. From there, swimming beneath the first impressions, it was not long before I was completely blown away by everything actually going on in the music. Vindsval’s vocals take a bit of warming to; as you listen and begin to grasp the way he uses his voice as an atmospheric tool as opposed to simply a vehicle for his lyrics (apparently he’s only ever made public the lyrics to one album, and otherwise, as in the case of ..Transforms God, chooses to let them remain enigmatic) you’ll have what you need to accept what’s going on and really take it in: on several tracks, ‘Choir…‘ included, the vocals are constantly fed back over the top of themselves, heavily effected and often sounding exactly like storm gales howling outside a lonely castle in a storm. Other tricks include a wonderful, Sabotage-era Sabbath-like tendency to pitchshift the vocal returns low, so that behind every utterance and snarl (lots of snarling on this one), there’s a similar performance but slow-motioned and monstrous, as if demons were spitting his every word back at him.
For me it’s Vindsval’s guitars that are the major factor in the group’s sound though. As I said, the bass doesn’t take up too much residence here, instead the guitars scream and clank away in a twisty, rotting delay-space that really showcases the Godflesh influence. Again, like Streetcleaner there is that hell’s boiler room sound to everything and it makes for very dark, psychologically disturbing spaces in which the songs take place in. Add to this several epic and perfectly honed infusions of similar atmospherics as we see on ..Emanations.. and you get one complex and sick sounded record, one that, as only one other album I’ve ever heard has done, left me physically ill while listening that first time*. But that first time is also the inoculation, and although ‘nauseating’ may sound like something most folks would not want from their music, I’m always intrigued and impressed when someone can physically affect me with sound like that.
Here’s a taste:
* Believe it or not that other album was Cypress Hills Temples of Boom, back in the day when it dropped on unsuspecting folks thinking we were going to get another Black Sunday. Dark as fuck that one.