French Black Metal band Blut Aus Nord has established itself over the last two decades as the true vanguard of Avant-garde Black Metal, releasing highly experimental, dissonant, and brilliant music. Amongst their releases, the Memoria Vetusta series of albums stand out with their more straightforward and melodic song writing and naturalistic themes. The second Memoria Vetusta album, Dialogue with the Stars, takes the medieval, Viking metal aesthetic of the first Memoria Vetusta and blasts off into space, eschewing the pagan for the cosmic. Here, sweeping guitar riffs and solos take center stage, accompanied by robotic drums and soaring synths reminiscent of Vindval’s side project The Eye, in songs with titles invoking esoteric cosmology and Buddhist meditation.
The first song, Acceptance (Aske), is a slow intro, giving an eye of the storm feel before the the album starts. The words Aske is Norwegian for “ashes,” and was the title of a Burzum album featuring a picture of the charred remains of the Fantoft Stave Church on the cover. The second song, Disciple’s Libration: (Lost in the Nine Worlds), starts off explosively with heavy riffing and screamed vocals. The lyrics are unintelligible as they are on the rest of the album, but the song titles tell a story that resonates well with the abstract riffs and inhuman vocals. An awesome riff and solo occur at 2:55 carrying on for awhile before very mechanical drum machine kicks in. Viking style vocals appear at 3:55, buried in the mix.
The Cosmic Echoes of Non-Matter (Immaterial Voices of the Fathers) starts off brutally like the previous song, featuring soaring guitars and relentless drum machines. A cool solo appears at 2:39, which repeats and elaborates, showcasing the virtuosity of frontman Vindsval. The song’s title references the previous album in the series, Fathers of the Icy Age, with Viking chanting occurring at 3:28. Following this harsh vocals follow, leading up to another great riff part at 4:28, which elaborates on and on mixing with synths before ending the song. The next song, Translucent Body of Air (Sutta Anapanasati), is a calm interlude track following the heaviness of the previous two songs. Serene notes and synths play out a very atmospheric and peaceful track. The latter half of the song title references an early Buddhist Text, which translates to Mindfulness of Breathing Discourse. The tranquil nature of this song resonates well with the textual reference, giving musical form to a classic Buddhist meditation technique while highlighting Vindsvals oft mentioned passion for Eastern philosophy.
The fifth song, The Formless Sphere (Beyond the Reason), takes us back into the territory of pummeling riffs, epic solos, machinelike drums, and atmospheric synths. Highlights of the song include the section extending from 2:56-4:00, the solo at 4:25, and finally the slow buildup at 5:45 which leads to the song’s amazingly crushing climax. A quiet interlude similar to “Translucent Body of Air” starts off the next song, The Meditant (Dialogue with the Stars). This song shares its title with the album, and in an interview Vindsval has described this “dialogue” as the “annihilation of the I,” a description that emphasizes this cosmic journey of an album being a truly non-dual spiritual experience. Viking vocals return in this song, in two stretches at 1:32-1:55 and 2:55-3:40, and the song is broken into two parts, separated by a repeat of the beginning interlude.
The seventh song, The Alcove of Angels (Vipassana), brings in another Buddhist reference. Vipassana is a Buddhist meditation technique commonly translated as “Insight Meditation,” used to develop a deep and direct knowledge and insight into the nature of reality. Distant guitars start off the song, which grow progressively louder, as if one were slowly approaching the sound source in the vastness of space. A great section starts at 3:22, followed by a segue and another epic section at 4:38, which repeats and elaborates until the end of the song. The next song, Antithesis of the Flesh (And then Arises an New Essence), is my favorite track on the entire album, showcasing the best of Vindsval’s talent in my opinion. Synths and blast beats start it off, giving a very heavy but ethereal beginning. The first four minutes serve to tease and build up to the song’s highlight, stretching from 4:14 onward. Viking chanting returns at 5:47, leading up to the magnificent outro, which I believe to be one of the best moments in the history of music. The last song, Elevation, is a straightforward blissful outro with soaring synths and guitars.
While each of Blut Aus Nord’s releases is unique, Dialogue with the Stars is conspicuous for its relative lack of dissonance and disharmony. Here Vindsval has produced something rather more soaring and melodic than most of his work, but it is not worse for it, in fact it shines because of it. The straightforward Viking metal of the first Memoria Vetusta album is revisited and reworked, utilizing the best of Vindsval’s advances in songwriting and production even as it forgoes the darkness and chaos. I do appreciate the dark parts of Vindsvals’s work, but this album is a true gem and a testament to Vindsval’s genius. A must listen for all fans of the cosmic, atmospheric, and avant-garde forms of Black Metal.
**Also, the third album in the Memoria Vetusta trilogy was recently announced on the official Blut Aus Nord facebook page. The album’s name has been revealed to be Saturnian Poetry and it is hoped to come out next year.
Release: February 23, 2009
Label: Candlelight Records
Avantgenre: Cosmic Black Metal
Official site: None
Review online since: 20.08.2013 / 19:50:56
01 – Acceptance (Aske)