The Mystical Masque of Rebellion: A Review of Blut Aus Nord’s Memoria Vetusta III: Saturnian Poetry

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“Blut Aus Nord is an artistic concept. We don’t need to belong to a specific category of people to exist. If black metal is just this subversive feeling and not a basic musical style, then Blut Aus Nord is a black metal act. But if we have to be compared to all these childish satanic clowns, please let us work outwards [from] this pathetic circus. This form of art deserves something else than these mediocre bands and their old music composed 10 years before by someone else.”

-Vindsval

____________________________

Blut Aus Nord mainman Vindsval has zero interest with the norm. The norm is a place for many bands, but not for Blut Aus Nord. The norm is the current, the pulse of the art, the trend. The norm is inclusive, variable, and amorphous. The norm is the prevailing zeitgeist. It need not be a tangible scene or a self-aware movement aimed and executed in a certain direction. The norm is also the reaction to scenes and trends. The norm is the anti-trend. The norm is embracing the opposite. The norm is reactionary.

And (almost) all bands contribute to the norm and feed from the norm. It’s a predictable and trite cycle. Bands get heavy. Bands get soft. Bands go prog. Bands get technical. Bands go punk. Bands go back to their roots. Bands take it to a next level. Bands sell merchandise. Bands tour. Bands stay home. Bands breakup and bands reform. Bands love their fans. Bands hate their fans. Bands move forward and evolve. It all makes sense. Because bands are the norm. The norm is the face; it’s goal-oriented, specific, and a comfort zone. It is a place where your sound and your self are fully-fleshed, idealized, and worn as a mask.

But not always.

In the ballroom of the norm, Vindsval is the Red Death, and his masque is never obvious.

BAN_2011_3Image courtesy of Blut Aus Nord and Debemur Morti Productions

Few bands in heavy metal have achieved the parity, consistency, and quality of Blut Aus Nord. Up and down their discography—from the buzzing Nordic murk of Ultima Thulee, to the mechanical whirring of The Work Which Transforms God to the soaring melodious shine of Memoria Vetusta II: Dialogue with the Stars—one finds a consistently high level of quality, innovation, and—most saliently—a bipolar unpredictability. Blut Aus Nord is not progressive, and they do not evolve. This isn’t a band changing with the times, or reinventing themselves for their fans. There isn’t a predictable or logical ending. The band has forged a legacy of changes, broad influence, eclecticism, and of sounding the way you least expect them to sound. They move around, sound differently, and it is always good.

Enough with the bombast. How is Memoria Vetusta III?

In brief: Amazing. It’s everything you want in a follow-up to MVII, and more. It is one of the best albums released this year, and one of the greatest melodic black metal albums ever put out.

Memoria Vetusta III: Saturnian Poetry finds Blut Aus Nord wearing their melodic and majestic hats. And those hats fit real good. Huge, soaring guitar melodies, tasteful keyboard interplay, a mix of clean and harsh vocals, and the band’s most holistic drumming performance ever combine to create an album rife with immediately memorable passages and a palpable atmosphere, and repeated listens will reveal nuggets of minutiae scattered about the album. The envy of all black metal locker rooms, this album is both a grower and a shower. You will be flattened by your first listen, and prepare to pick your haggard ass up from the floor upon each subsequent spin.

BAN_2011_1Image courtesy of Blut Aus Nord and Debemur Morti Productions

Saturnian Poetry is comprised of seven tracks and totals 47:19. This is a lean and mean album, expertly trimmed to its finished form by Vindsval and co. There is no fat and no excess. This album is all business. Aside from the short ambient prelude/intro that does well to settle you in and set the mood (I’m not a fan of intros of this sort, but this one is brief enough to not detract from the album), the other tracks range from about six and a half minutes to almost nine minutes in length. This relatively even distribution of music throughout the six main tracks of the album makes for a very balanced and digestible listen.

“Prelude” gives way to the first proper track, “Paien,” a grandiose track which hits immediately with massive and layered guitar melodies reminiscent of Memoria Vetusta I: Fathers of the Icy Age. Though it draws influence from both of its predecessors, Saturnian Poetry has more in common with MVI than MVII. This album has more of Father of the Icy Age feel to it. Like that album, MVIII is driven primarily by strong and heavy guitar melodies, ditching a few layers from the MVII keyboard blanket. Though keyboards are still featured, they are not nearly as prominent in the mix as they were on MVII, and the layered guitars form the backbone of the melody. “Paien” offers a great example: as the track closes out, a stunning guitar lead erupts to the surface around the 7 minute mark. This is atmospheric and melodic black metal, and it is pure in its design, execution, and impression. This is possibly Vindsval’s greatest performance on the guitar.

“Paien” offers the listener the first glimpse of the musical feature that many will come to identify with this album: Vindsval’s most pronounced and unadulterated clean vocals to date. Though harsh vocals predominate in all their textured and vitriolic glory, cleans are used prominently in several tracks. And though they exist in stark contrast to Vindsval’s mercurial throat shredding, they are not a one trick pony. In some songs, they serve as soft breaks to the action, while in other tracks they are layered together in choral-esque chants that accentuate the majestic qualities of both the track and the album on the whole. In “Tellus Mater,” the shortest and possibly the most ferocious track on the album, clean chants appear around 3:30 in the song. Coupled with a few soft keyboard lines, this break gives the listener a much needed reprieve from the track’s relentlessness. The cleans work better than imagined. They never feel forced or out of place. They just fit.

The songs on Saturnian Poetry waste no time in getting themselves going. Every track explodes from the short between song silence that precedes it. Even the longest song on the album, the monumental “Forhist,” wastes no time, blasting ruthlessly out of the blocks. This is probably Blut Aus Nord’s most “immediate” album. It has a very steady and rapid pace. The album flies by—at almost 50 minutes of runtime, that’s a testament to how well-crafted it is. There is never a strain on the ear or patience; this is immediately satisfying and listenable metal.

Nearly nine minutes in length, “Forhist” scrawls a beautiful picture. Alternating between furious and melodious guitar lines and softer breaks of clean vocals and buzzing keyboard, the first two-thirds of this song builds a tangible tension. And then all Ragnarok breaks loose: a seriously rocking riff comes in at 6:38, followed by the most acidic and coarse vocals on the album. The duality of the album is glimpsed in no clearer a portrait than this song. When people say the ugliness of black metal can be beautiful, this is the type of stuff they are referencing. “Henosis,” the album’s fifth track, legitimately gave me goosebumps. When the huge and powerful clean vocals come in at 1:51, the hair on my arms and the back of my neck stood up. These are probably the best cleans on the entire album, and boy do they work. This song also features a drum break and repeated drum fills around 3:43, an original feature to Blut Aus Nord’s music. Qu’est-ce que c’est? Is that a human drummer showing off a little? Yessir. This isn’t your nightmarish alien overlord’s Blut Aus Nord with its mechanical mashing. This is Memoria Vetusta.

As you might be aware, this is the first Blut Aus Nord album with a new (and very human) drummer. Blut Aus Nord is well known and even recognizable by their trademark drum machine sound. Perhaps no other band in metal besides Godflesh has made better use of programmed drums. Blut Aus Nord took a risk to put a human behind the drum kit, but the risk paid off. This is an organic drum sound, and it perfectly complements the atmosphere evoked by the guitars and vocals. In stark contrast the alien machinations of The Work Which Transforms God or MorT, Saturnian Poetry feels like music made by humans and intended for human consumption.

BAN_2011_2Image courtesy of Blut Aus Nord and Debemur Morti Productions

The album closes with a pair of enormous 8-minute tracks, the apocalyptic and tense “Metaphor of the Moon,” and the amazing and hypnotic bookend “Clarissima Mundi Lumina.” “Metaphor…” opens with a frenetic and anxiety-provoking riff that seems to foreshadow some type of impending catastrophe, and it breaks this tension with a gorgeous guitar lead at 2:15. This lead helps expunge some of the worry ignited by the opening riff.  But it doesn’t last. A whirlwind attack, “Metaphor of the Moon” drags the listener all over the place. This track utilizes keyboards more than any other track on the album, and as an element of contrast to the tension of the frantic guitars and grating vocals, they deliver . This is really beautiful stuff.

The most traditionally “black metal” moment on the album comes at the genesis of the final track. “Clarissima Mundi Lumina,” begins with an eerie tremolo riff that wouldn’t feel out of place on Under a Funeral Moon. This song is an appropriate closer—an immense and varied track with a little of everything from the rest of the album sprinkled about. Strained, frenzied, and weird clean vocals start at 1:30, and they repeat the same vocal melody twice before being interrupted by the harsh vocals. This same weird clean vocal melody is repeated again, and the song continues to up its tempo, getting faster and building tension. One of the best riffs on the album hits at 4:15—a seriously mammoth and memorable guitar line. At 5:35, the song climaxes, and a jarring, eagle-like screech rings out, drawing all attention to the closing that follows. A stunning riff repeats for the remainder of track, and the song—and album—fades out gradually over the last forty-five seconds.

Immense.

Though I found nearly every second of this album delectable and satisfying, I foresee a few complaints resonating from those of a different taste or persuasion. I think those familiar with/and or smitten by Blut Aus Nord’s industrial sound and drum programming wizardry may find the human drummer disappointing. Though I quite enjoyed the distinctly human element to the drums, others may find them unappealing and lacking of the typical BAN drum sound. I also expect others to complain about a lack of nuance or variety in the album. There is definitely a “sameness” to a lot of the material on Memoria Vetusta III, and many of the songs have a similar feel, tempo, pacing, and sound to them. To me, this is not a problem, as I see this album as a “whole”—that is, as a larger sum of its parts—and in my opinion, the songs do in fact distinguish themselves enough from each other.

Memoria Vetusta III: Saturnian Poetry is a monumental album, and is likely to appear at or near the top of many Album of the Year lists. It is an appropriate and satisfying continuation to both the Memoria Vetusta series and Blut Aus Nord’s discography. Never one to settle in one place or to progress with a single unified goal in mind, Vindsval is sailing Blut Aus Nord into exotic ports and back again. Blut Aus Nord is not a progression as much as it is an agitator. It exists nowhere on the scale of normal. The band never reinvents itself but always reimagines. The norm exists in the straits; Blut Aus Nord in the eddy.

Remove your masque and try not to sweat blood.

—HD

Rating:

0/5 flushes.

9.5/10 Byahs!

 zero flushes

___________________________

*Memoria Vetusta III: Saturnian Poetry is out on CD and Vinyl October 10th, 2014 on the always excellent Debemur Morti Productions.

*Buy the album here: http://www.debemur-morti.com/en/32-blut-aus-nord-discography

*Stream the album here: http://noisey.vice.com/blog/blut-aus-nord-memoria-vetusta-iii-lp

*Special thanks to Debemur Morti Productions for the advanced copy of the album.* Merci!

(Image via)

  • Gurp

    I’m waiting for all the leaves to change, then I’m going to take a 6 pack to one of the metroparks and listen to it there. Memoria Vetusta II is one of my favorite albums of all time, and for its followup I wanna get the best first listen experience possible. Fingers crossed.
    Also, I heard Vindsval had an early project called Children of Maani. Haven’t listened to it yet.

    • Howard Dean

      Vindsval did indeed have a project called Children of Maani. It was sort of a melodic black metal band. I haven’t listened to much of it. He also has the side project The Eye, too.

      • Gurp

        I’m surprised he’s managed to put out so much material over the years.

        • Howard Dean

          Yeah, he’s a workhorse. Blut Aus Nord is a prolific band. And the really incredible part is how young he was when he started, and how high his quality of work was from a young age. Rumor has it he wrote Ultima Thulee when he was 15-16. That’s seriously amazing.

          • Gurp

            Holy shit. I wrote a couple short stories when I was that age. I got nothing on that.

  • Killer review, HD. Byah and such. This might end up being my favorite BAN album of all time, and that’s saying a lot given the quality of their entire catalog. This can be flushed by no man.

    • Howard Dean

      Thanks MSD! I agree: This might be my favorite BAN album, and that says a lot. Picking a favorite BAN album is like trying to pick a favorite kind of steak. “This thick cut ribeye is delicious, as is that filet. And there’s the porterhouse…”

      • Exactly. MVIII doesn’t represent all that is “current BAN.” Just one of the many co-existing creative pools they draw from whenever they feel like it.

        PS – TWWTG is totally a ribeye.

        • Howard Dean

          Totally! TWWTG is a deliciously horrifying ribeye. Memoria Vetustas are the filet. Ultima Thulee is the porterhouse. The Mystical Beast of Rebellion is steak tartare. MoRT is a cold slab of bleeding cow ribs trailing gore and viscera.

          • All delicious. One of my favorite things about these dudes is that they haven’t necessarily “moved on” from their various past inspirations. They still recognize the merit of a filet even though they just released a meatier trilogy. MVIII is proof of that.

            I’m fucking starving.

          • Howard Dean

            Definitely, and it’s admirable. That’s why I wanted to write about it. They aren’t a typical “we’re progressing and moving on and we’re totally growing as a band and check out the soft prog rock we make now because we are so mature and everything” band (we can make a pretty huge list of applicable bands right here; first band rhymes with “Bastodon”). BAN has a half dozen styles they enjoy and are great at making, and they just write music in that vein when they feel like it. It’s incredible to behold: a band that literally makes a different album all the time, but never actually changes as a band. I dig that.

          • Hear hear and byah!

  • FIIIIIIVE GLEAMING BOWLS!!! m/

    • iirc this is our first zero flush review.

      • Howard Dean

        Many thanks to Monsieur Thrashnkill for finding that amazing, gleaming, zero flush bowl! Byah!

      • Indeed. Well written and well deserved.
        Howard Dean, ladies and gentlemen!

  • Beunhaas

    I’ll admit that I’ve never listened to this band, but this review makes me want to. BYAH!

  • This is a “sit on my back porch while the red leaves fall” kind of album, isn’t it?

    Great write up, even without listening to it, I could very clearly imagine the sound of the album with your words. It’s clear you put a lot of thought/effort into it! Really looking forward to listening to the album.

    • Howard Dean

      Thanks Randall!

      I definitely think the Memoria Vetusta’s have a lot of crossover appeal. I could see a dude who only listens to Manowar and Heavy Load digging this album. The melodies are just so infectious and majestic.

      • I love black metal, and have already heard one of the songs we posted here a while ago, and am really looking forward to the whole album

        • Howard Dean

          You will love the whole album. It’s an easy but rewarding listen!

          Side note: Do you like Heavy Load?

          • They are a band I SHOULD know, and will probably love when I do listen to them, but I have not listened to them at all yet.

            Lyrical themes: Freedom, Honor, Metal, Vikings. Yes, I am going to love them.

          • Howard Dean

            I honestly don’t know them well and have only listened to a few songs. I remember them being thrown around a lot on the metal-archives for awhile when they were having a big trad. heavy metal/power metal pow-wow, and people were talking about bands similar to Manowar. They are Swedish, I believe. Old school stuff. And extraordinarily cheesy.

          • My super elitist trad heavy metal friends like them. I’m not as into trad as they are, but I like 90% of what they do, so I imagine it will be a lot of fun for me. I’ll have to add them on to the list

  • Tyree

    I have yet to listen to all of this, but the one track I did hear that you posted was really fucking great! The human drumming adds so much more feeling to their sound, and it’s really impressive & dynamic playing at that. I look forward to listening to all of this. Great review, BYAH!

    • Howard Dean

      Thanks Tyree! I really liked the drumming, too. Though I think BAN has some of the best drum programming out there, you can’t beat a skilled human behind the kit–especially with music like this.

      • “you can’t beat a skilled human behind the kit”
        i think there’s a repressed memory of some pleb who begs to differ with you…

        • Tyree

          I saw you in a preview for the new show “The Affair” on Showtime last night.

          • holy cow this sounds good!

            i mean… yeah it’s a quality show, we had a lot of fun filming it!

          • Tyree

            I bet you did you ol’ rascal you!

      • Tyree

        Indeed, I liked them with programmed drums anyways, but now I like them even more. Win!

  • Nordling Rites Ov Karhu

    This is hands down the best article on the Toilet. This is easily one of the best articles on any blogs that concwrn metal and I am familiar with. And this is one of the best reviews I have ever read. And I have read about a cubic buttload of each of the aforementioned. I am (nearly) speechless.

    • Howard Dean

      That was honestly one of the best compliments I’ve ever received. Thank you.

      • Nordling Rites Ov Karhu

        And I mean this was better than many of the professional writers I know (implying you’re not, which wouldn’t be far fetched). Only a few have intrigued me this much ever. Especially that beginning was honestly beautiful.

        • Even better than professional writer Axl Rosenberg?!?!

          • The Satan Ov Hell

            -FLUSHES HAXL POSENBURG DOWN THE TOILET OV HELL- BLACKENED IS THE END

          • Nordling Rites Ov Karhu

            He’s in his own league. Nothing written by a mere mortal will never compare to his art. (It’s a different question wether one wishes ro perceive this as a negative or a positive quality).

        • Howard Dean

          Thank you. I’m not a professional writer, though I do a lot of writing for the company in which I am employed, and that usually involves a lot of research, planning, and careful writing. And I’ve always had a keen interest in writing–both fiction and nonfiction. Thanks again for the compliments. That is seriously nice of you, and I appreciate it!

          • Scrimm

            While my article writing is terrible and I’m usually too stupid to look at my posts to check grammar before I post, I write a ton of fiction and I can say you would be very good at it. You have a very good print voice.

          • Nordling Rites Ov Karhu

            ^^^This I second

          • Howard Dean

            Thanks! I actually used to write a lot of short fiction, and once upon a time (when I thought I was George Saunders), I briefly considered doing an MFA.

          • Scrimm

            I believe it.

      • Edward Meehan

        This review is so good that it is actually… intimidating. Well done.

        • Howard Dean

          Thanks!

    • W.

      That’s a hell of a compliment, but I do think this is Mr. Dean’s greatest work so far, and definitely one of the best pieces to appear in our humble bowl!

      • Nordling Rites Ov Karhu

        I stand by it. I go through numerous articles/reviews each day. Way too numerous to count. And even if I write only a little myself, I believe I recognise a work of a true artist when I come across such. This my dear Dubya is a verbal work of pure art.

  • Nordling Rites Ov Karhu

    From what I’ve heard so far this is going to be close to BAN’ finest hour so far. At firat human drummer didn’t feel like a good idea though, as I love their industrial tendencies and machinistic sound. But listening to it has made me change my mind about it…for now.

  • W.

    Howard Dean, this was a riveting review! 666/666 BYAHs!!!!!

    • Howard Dean

      Thanks Dubya!

  • Nordling Rites Ov Karhu

    This review has not flown undetecred by BAN’s radar. And it’s greatness has been ewcognised by the band. (I don’t know how often this happens in the toilet, but it is a considerable feat)

    • Howard Dean

      Wait, what do you mean?

      • W.

        They shared it on Facebook and called it an “Amazing Review.”

        • Howard Dean

          No fucking way! Byah!

          • Mr.CustodialArts

            I wanna see this on a sticker on the cd/vinyl:

            “0/5 flushes.
            9.5/10 Byahs!”-toiletovhell.com

          • “0/5 flushes” – Howard Dean

          • it’d be funny if they were all, “some american politician really likes us!”

      • Nordling Rites Ov Karhu

        ↓ that

  • Paris Hilton

    Fuck Haxl Po$enburg, Vince $teal$tein and the pack of unoriginal losers at Metalsucks.net!!!!

    Metalsucks.net: Now only available on Xbox One™ for a monthly subscription of $14.99. This includes a direct streaming service of Five Finger Death Punch™ for the release of Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare™.

    TOILET OV HELL = METAL!

    METALSUCKS.NET = POSERS!

    PERIOD!!!!

    *flushes Haxl Po$enburg down his own toilet then takes an upper decker in it*

    • CONAN THE MOTHERFUCKING KING

      where were you at the concert ! I had on my best mortician shirt, i was standing at the upstairs railing right at the front in the middle for the first half of skeletonwitch and then somebody tapped me on the shoulder and i gave my place to a guy in a wheel chair. So my evening was over as far as clear vision of the stage went. Skeletonwitch were awesome, singer looked like otis from devils rejects. Sabaton were fun but i could not listen to them for an hour and a half. AA were really on the money too, no gimmicks and straight ahead death metal. Good sound for all the bands too i thought. Way more packed than i thought.

  • JWG

    Both showing my age and also possibly proof that I watch too much ‘MeTV’, every time in those first two paragraphs that you typed ‘norm’, a little voice in my head repeated “Afternoon everyone!”

    “…NORM!”

    (except that one time it was ANTON!)

    • Howard Dean

      CHEERS MASTER RACE

  • Janitor Jim Dvggan

    I must buy this album as it seems amazing. This article is also so well written that other metal bloggers should take notes from how this is written.

    • Howard Dean

      Thanks JJD!

      • Janitor Jim Dvggan

        Anytime. Your writing trumps the writing of basically all the metal blog writers out there on the internet.

  • Matt Pike’s Sweaty Left Nipple

    This album is so good! Great review. Can’t wait to listen to this album when the weather gets cold (still 90+ degrees F here in Texas, despite being fucking October…). Nothing like a walk in the woods on a frosty evening as the sun sets, listening to atmospheric black metal like this.

  • crazytaco_12

    Also gotta say good review, definitely got me interested in checking out the album. BAN is a band I always mean to check out more, but I never get around to it, so perfect time to start I suppose.

    • Howard Dean

      Definitely. They have a large discography and a huge array of sounds and styles, but you can’t go wrong with really any of them. I’d start with Ultima Thulee, any of the Memoria Vetusta albums, or The Work Which Transforms God.

  • Warheart

    So this is probably the best BAN album so far? I HAVE to listen this RIGHT NOW!!!

  • CONAN THE MOTHERFUCKING KING

    this day in metal
    1978 – judas priest release killing machine
    1984 – armored saint release march of the saint
    2007 – overkill release the album Immortalis

  • Simon Phoenix

    Take notes Rosenturd, THIS is how you write a review.

    • Edward Meehan

      I upvoted you because:

      A) I agree, completely

      and

      B) lol @ Rosenturd.

  • Mindi B

    GREAT review, excellent articulation and writing, written with intellect yet without arrogance. Pretty much agree 100%. Been spinning this album a few days and cannot stop, its absolutely amazing, and dare I say, possibly a masterpiece alongside MVII and TTWTG in the BAN catalogue. Superb work. FUCKING SUPERB. Behind Morbus Chron’s “SWEVEN”, MVIII possibly ties for the number one spot in 2014 for me. Outstanding.

    • Howard Dean

      Thank you for the kind words! Glad you enjoyed the review! For me, the albums battling it out with MVIII for the top spot are Dead Congregation’s Promulgation of the Fall, Drowned’s Idola Specus, and Abigor’s Leytmotif Luzifer.