Blut Aus Nord (hereafter referred to as BaN) is legendary in the Black Metal scene for its groundbreaking and fearless push into new musical territory. Vindsval’s previous albums like The Work Which Transforms God, MoRT have both pushed the envelope and changed the horizons of what Black Metal (and music in general for that matter) can sound like, whereas at the same time the man is not afraid to produce something melodic and inspiring like with Memoria Vetusta II: Dialogue with the Stars. The 777 trilogy, BaN’s latest production (aside from the What Once Was… releases) showcases their sheer talent and range of emotion and sound, forming a single epic work that consistently challenges and rewards the listener from beginning to end. Starting with the album 777 – Sect(s), we experienced an apocalypse presaged with chaotic and grinding Black Metal riffs, inhuman vocals, and dissonant blast beats, heralding the downfall of all ideological systems (“Sects”) and reference points. 777 – The Desanctification continued in this direction The Desanctification with a tripped out black metal/hip hop affair illustrating man’s fall through the void left from Sect(s). Which leaves us here with Cosmosophy, the culmination of the trilogy. Cosmosophy favors slow, epic soundscapes and sweeping atmosphere explored incompletely with previous songs like “Our Blessed Frozen Cells,” and “Procession of the Dead Clowns,” bringing a powerful conclusion to a massive spiritual journey.
The first song, “Epitome XIV,” picks up right after The Desanctification left off. Long sweeping notes start the song, picking up around 2:06 with heavier riffing and clean vocals! These clean vocals were foreshadowed by the song “Epitome X” on the previous album, but still come as a bit of a shock since BaN is known for its harsh, inhuman vocal style. More slow riffs and drum work follows as the vocals become more heartfelt and desperate, leading into a slow ambient part. Vindsval’s mastery of pace and anticipation really makes this album, and the build-up starts at 4:53 is one of the album’s highlights in this regard. A darker section comes at 6:08, with powerful riffs and deathly albeit clean vocals. The outro continues in this way until the end. An impressive start that beautifully introduces this slow but powerful album.
The second song, “Epitome XV,” takes us into new territory. An ambient fugue starts the song, with French rapping(!) starting at 0:26. While the clean singing can be understood, the lyrics are abstruse and esoteric, slithering in and out while ethereal voices haunt the background. At 3:00 loud praying vocals interrupt while drums hammer away, taking us into a haunting and disturbing atmosphere that reminds me of BaN’s previous album Thematic Emanation of Archetypal Multiplicity, which was itself primarily an ambient affair interspersed with industrial rhythms and darkly psychedelic vocals. The loud atmospheric section drops away at 5:09, while more low vocals lead us into the next song on the album.
The next song is one of my favorites on the album, even though Epitome XVI. One of my favorites on this album, in spite of the fact that it’s almost generic amongst the other massive sonic monsters on the album. Harp-like strings smoothly start this song for a full two minutes, marking another of Vindsval’s delicious build-ups. Powerful guitar work starts up at 2:40 accompanied by drumming joined by more amazing clean vocals. A slow shift in the guitar work ensues, leading into a build-up to one of the highlights of the album at 5:35. Epic beautiful sweeping guitars crash away before taking a dark turn at 6:48, an anxious turn accompanied by harsh vocals and dissonant guitars typical of BaN. Deep pounding guitars and more sweeping work return at 8:35 that continue until the song’s end. This song in particular highlights the album’s slow rollercoaster approach, as it goes through multiple moods and vistas before delivering the listener to the conclusion.
The fourth song, “Epitome XVII,” is one of the most bipolar on the album with its drastically constrasting moods. It features the most harmonic and soft vocals and guitar work on the album, almost rubbing me the wrong way on first listen because of its utter lack of dissonance. The guitars, vocals, and even the crashing drumming create a heavenly symphony unparalleled in beauty that extends for several minutes. However, the epic beauty of this song’s beginning is complemented by its demented end. At 4:27 a slow and ominous ambient section drags us from the highest heaven down into the hell realms so familiar in BaN’s previous albums. Mournful guitars enter at 6:23 joined soon after by low harsh vocals before the guitars take a somber and ethereal sound completely at odds with the majesty and beauty that marked the song’s beginning. The song ends slowly on that note, the last final breath of adversity dying before the album’s epic final piece.
The last song, Epitome XVIII, is the ultimate conclusion to the album. The most consistent song overall, it’s a pummeling and driving piece that directly invokes the feeling of movement, as if we are flying through the sky. It should be kept in mind that this song is not only the end of the album, but the 777 trilogy as well, highlighting the long journey that was started with Sect(s). While the song doesn’t have much dynamism, it doesn’t sound repetitious, and the driving movement evokes a deep feeling of ease and accomplishment, as if all karma, terror, and troubles have been worked through on the previous seventeen songs in the trilogy, allowing us to now dance easily and freely through the cosmos. There is some range in the euphoric and hypnotizing riffs, but overall the song is a simple ride from beginning to end. The driving guitar work slowly fades into soft and quiet ambient sounds that end the album trilogy, delivering us into a dimensionless quiet peace beyond all hope and despair.
One aspect of BaN’s music that I’m the most fascinated and compelled by is their dance and play between the beautiful and the grotesque. A century ago the Austrian poet Rainer Maria Rilke said it most eloquently when he wrote “beauty is just the beginning of terror.” Blus Aus Nord has consistently played within this liminal space throughout its musical career, offering the most dissonant, disturbing but cosmic and beautiful music I have ever listened to. This album in particular shows Vindsval at his best, showing that he is just as talented and comfortable showing his lighter and inspiring side as he is his darker and hellish side. With the 777 trilogy, BaN has created a work of genius that goes beyond mere art; it is a cosmic journey that takes us from our humble beginnings in the small world we come from, to out beyond our karmic limitations to the deepest corners of our psyche until we are ready to dance through the empty space of our own consciousness. Cosmosophy is the embodiment of this final step, and its music will reverberate with the wisdom of our own enlightened awareness forever and ever.
P.S. Look out for an upcoming interview with Vindsval, given by our very own contributor David Wasserman. He’s expecting it to arrive in the next year or so, and his probing questions into the more profound and esoteric aspects of Vindsval’s work (given with some invaluable assistance on my part :D) should prove to be a very amazing contribution to Avantgarde-metal.com.
01 – Epitome XIV