Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Blut Aus Nord- 777 Sect(s)

Blut Aus Nord is a band that has climbed to great heights and sunk to equally great depths. Their first four albums are all praiseworthy in their own right. From the lush, melodic sounds of “Ultima Thulee” and “Memoria Vestusta I” to the raw, biting edge of “The Mystical Best of Rebellion” and “The Work Which Transforms God,” the French act with the German name proved to be masters of innovation and  transformation. Blut Aus Nord appeared to be an unstoppable force.

And then came the downfall. 2005’s “MoRT” was a dull and dysfunctional mess, lacking structure, coherence and personality. The drop in quality was so severe that it did not appear Blut Aus Nord would ever return to form. The one-dimensional, plodding “Odinist” seemed to confirm this suspicion. A number of mediocre EPs further suggested Blut Aus Nord was past expiration date. However, the majestic “Memoria Vestusta II” was somewhat of a return to form—consisting of a ton of beautiful melodies and excellent atmosphere. Still, nothing suggested that Blut Aus Nord would return to the heights of old. Lo and behold, “777 Sect(s)” is indeed such a return to glory. 

Musically, the album picks up where “The Work…” left off, consisting of dark, dissonant riffs and disjointed electric drums. However, “777 Sect(s)” explores larger, more complex song structures and a wider range of tempos. “777 Sect(s)” returns to Blut Aus Nord’s roots, but allows those roots to spread in new directions. What dissonant albums like “MoRT” and “Odinist” lacked was a living, visceral force behind the wall of industrial rhythms. “777 Sect(s)” rectifies this flaw. The dissonant riffs swirl aggressively through the soundscape like a swarm of furious wasps. These are contrasted by melodic leads and solos that hook the listener with odd but entrapping melodies. The industrial beats are full of devious energy, crawling unpredictably in one direction and then another. Eerie keys, wails and whispers create haunting backdrops.

All these dimensions come together in the wild and disorienting opening track, “Epitome 1”. From the opening moment the listener is attacked by swarms of vicious, dissonant riffs, before eventually reaching a steady, groovy middle passage. Suddenly, the music shifts into a series of lightning fast, downward progressions. It’s as if the floor fell out from under you with absolutely no warning. But there is even one more surprise: the song ends with about two minutes of dark, groovy electronica. Believe it or not, the ominous electronica passage is the perfect ending to a thrilling roller coaster of a song.

The doomy “Epitome 2” takes the opposite approach, but is equally as phenomenal, sounding like the soundtrack to the procession of a noble and ruthless king. Dark, menacing melodies lie in the background; regal lead guitars and synths slowly dance across the forefront. The massive “Epitome 4” blends the two approaches, overlaying slow, punching, industrial rhythms with a wide array of twisted riffs and chants.  While the other tracks aren’t quite as astounding, they still contain many contorted riffs and addictive melodies.

After a rough stretch from 2005-8, the last two albums show that Blut Aus Nord can still produce intense, powerful and original black metal. However, while “Memoria Vestusta II” took an easier route—beautiful, sweeping, melodic songs—“777 Sect(s)” holds no bars, pushing the boundaries of black metal through intricate song structures, odd rhythms and a constant interplay of melody and dissonance. Easily their best work in eight years, “777 Sect(s)” reminds us just what Blut Aus Nord is capable of.

Overall: 9/10

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