Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Blut Aus Nord - Memoria Vetusta III: Saturnian Poetry

The French black metallers Blut Aus Nord have a good but slightly inconsistent track record going back two decades. Following on the heels of their 777 trilogy, which got pretty mixed responses from their fans, the band have returned to with a third "Memoria Vetusta" record: the third installment of what I understand to be an intended trilogy that has been scattered over most the band's long career.

Some of you may know Blut Aus Nord for their more experimental work, but as a quick glance at the cover will probably tell you, this is not experimental or avant-garde. It's a melodic black metal album heavy on Scandinavian atmosphere, and damn is it ever good.

The guitar work is really the hero here, as the melodious, atmospheric riffs fill the center of the record and dominate the overall sound. The drumming provides a nice sense of drive, but it's a little on the quiet side and is clearly more supplemental than central. The bass, as is common in black metal, isn't really noticeable and may or may not even be present. The vocals, heavily distorted shrieks for the most part, are buried in the mix giving the sense that they are coming from some distant, unseen source. They're the faint echoes of a tortured soul, half heard amidst the howl of the freezing wind through the trees of an isolated pine forest.

The effect of this construction is that all the pieces work to support the central guitar pillar instead of each vying for supremacy. Within the context of the music as a whole, these supporting elements help create a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts. I'd say that this is one of the best black metal albums in a year that has been quite good for black metal. I highly recommend giving this a listen.

Grade: A

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