Blut aus Nord is a black metal band that needs no introduction. Famous for its difficult, dissonant, and brilliant discography that has both defied and defined the genre, Blut Aus Nord has been at the forefront of the avant-garde. The band’s last three full-length albums, the 777 trilogy, were a head-spinning and vertigo-inducing head trip, narrating a visionary journey from the collapse of all human-created concepts (Sect(s)), to unimaginable solitude in liminal worlds (The Desanctification) before journeying into the heavenly void (Cosmosophy). However, for the first full-length album after the 777 trilogy, Blut Aus Nord the band has returned to a different side of their music, eschewing the brutal iconoclasm of other releases in favor of the grand majesty of the Memoria Vetusta albums. As the latest entry in the Memoria Vetusta series, Saturnian Poetry continues the tradition of sweeping majestic Pagan Black Metal. Not a trilogy, Memoria Vetusta is, like What Once Was… Liber, a series of albums held together by particular themes and styles. Whereas the latter is a dark, lo-fi black-death metal hybrid world of crypts and spirits, Memoria Vetusta is Blut Aus Nord’s melodic flagship, a venue for the epic and the grand, with naturalistic scenery and deep pagan pride. The last Memoria Vetusta, Dialogue with the Stars, took us far out into space, a stellar realm of esoteric cosmology and Buddhist meditation. With Saturnian Poetry we dive back into the Pagan world introduced in the first Memoria Vetusta, Fathers of the Icy Age, carrying the deep naturalistic scenery forward with all of the experience and milestones the band has attained in the past two decades, creating amazingly top-tier music that speaks to the heathen spirit still present in the depths of the European countryside.
Like previous Memoria Vetusta albums, Saturnian Poetry starts with a short prelude of synths before the album begins in earnest with “Païen.” A French word derived from Latin, this rendering of “Pagan” starts off with the heavy riffs and pounding relentlessness so familiar in previous albums. Right away we hear the crisp production from Dialogue with the Stars, centered around chugging yet melodic riffs with Vindsval’s trademark guitar cadence. Clean vocals are present as well, a feature almost absent from the previous Memoria Vetusta, tying the album more to Fathers of the Icy Age. All the elements taken together generate an epic and triumphant energy. After that we move to Tellus Mater, a song that explores the divine feminine. A Latin phrase for “Mother Earth,” this song’s extreme riffs take on a feminine tone, complemented by the buried synths and reverential clean vocals. These elements, alongside the sweeping solos so reminiscent of the best from Dialogue with the Stars, imbue the listener with a deep connection with this key feature of much of pagan belief. Personally, the song leaves me wanting female vocals, like the samples in “The Territory of Witches (Guardians of the Dark Lake),” my favorite track from Fathers of the Icy Age. However the song performs wonderfully despite that, its permutations of BaN’s riffs, solos, vocals, and drums imparting a beautiful mood as it celebrates feminine energy in the universe.
This theme continues into the next song, “Forhist,” An antiquated Frankish spelling of “forest,” this song starts off frenetically as we find ourselves lost in the hinterlands. The forest and countryside are key themes intimately tied to the meaning of “pagan,” a Latin-derived word originally referring to peoples from outside the Roman cities and centers of power. It saw a resurgence in Christianity, where it was used disparagingly to refer to native European peoples outside the sphere of Christendom, betraying the deep subconscious fear this foreign religion had of native European spirituality. Forhist’s riffs and melodies sound at times almost lifted from Dialogue with the Stars, especially the interlude that starts halfway through the song, an elegant respite that complements the rest of the song perfectly. After Forhist we have “Henosis,” one of the jewels of the album. This word, meaning “union” or “unity” within the Western canon, gives us perhaps the most philosophical track here. The riffs take on a heavenly tone in this song, a true feat showcasing Vindsval’s absurd talent, leading into majestic solos and clean vocals that rank the highest on the album in my opinion, yoking the listener to ecstatic heights of communion with the nature of reality, an embodied relationship with the Earth and all the elements of life. This song is sure to be added to the list of classic Blut Aus Nord tracks, right up there with the best from their ever-growing discography.
The penultimate song, “Metaphor of the Moon,” starts off with a more malevolent mood, brought to life with malicious down-tuned guitars and crushing vocals, inspiring the delirious sense of vertigo so common on BaN’s other albums. This is rather apt, considering the many associations humankind has attributed to our closest celestial neighbor, dissociative madness being one of them. This piece soon transitions into a melodic section of clean vocals and solos, a more romantic ode to Earth’s companion, the inspiration of innumerable poets and artists through history. Lastly no full accounting of the moon’s power is complete without a deep sense of sadness, and so the latter half of the song features a deeply mournful segment, a piece of somber beauty so often heard in songs about this harbinger of many of the Earth’s natural cycles, further exhibiting Vindsval’s talent for diverse moods and energies. The album ends with “Clarissima Mundi Lumina,” starting off frantically like Forhist and continuing throughout its length. A Latin phrase that translates to “brilliant world of lights,” Clarissima Mundi Lumina’s constant pace is driven forward by a relentless desperation in its riffs and vocals, the clean vocals in particular are just short of deranged. This ode to the night sky is an apt closing track, finishing the album on a hectic note in utter adoration of our celestial dome, explored so extravagantly in Dialogue with the Stars, even finishing similarly to the outro on that album’s second-to-last song, an animated and exhilarating close to an illustrious album.
All in all, Saturnian Poetry is a worthy continuation of the Memoria Vetusta saga. It differs in subtle yet key ways from its two predecessors, returning to the naturalistic scenery of the first MV, yet eschewing its violence in favor of the heavenly majesty of the second. In addition it favors much shorter and concise song titles, a departure from the rather ponderous appellations found on its predecessors. Like all of this band’s albums Saturnian Poetry is rather opaque and inaccessible at first, not surrendering its secrets and subtleties at first listen. Instead Blut Aus Nord’s albums are lauschmysterien,* difficult works requiring multiple re-listens to unlock their melodies, immersive mysteries that unfold in a deeper and more primordial mode of consciousness, mystical experiences yielded through patient surrender. With Saturnian Poetry Blut aus Nord shows that they are still at the top of their game, producing another excellent composition in this classic series of albums, a composition infused with deep pride and devotion to our pre-Christian identity. Saturnian Poetry stands as a deep inspiration for me, and I would recommend this album for anyone looking for a mystical experience imbued with the grand beauty and power of our pagan heritage.
*Much thanks to David Wasserman for helping me parse this phrase.
Release: October 10th 2014
Label: Debemur Morti Productions
Avantgenre: Melodic Black Metal
Official site: None
Review online since: 05.10.2014 / 22:50:50
01 – Prelude