Blut Aus Nord – Disharmonium – Undreamable Abysses


French visionaries, Blut Aus Nord, are an icon of black metal and one of the most innovative artists in dark experimental music. Who can deny the extreme metal brilliance of their 2004 album, The Work Which Transforms God, or the cathartic aggression of 2007’s Memoria Vetusta II: Dialogue with the Stars? Now on their fourteenth LP, the trio continue to push their music into new realms, and Disharmonium – Undreamable Abysses is yet another challenge to your idea of Blut Aus Nord. It might be easier to say it now – does anything sound like this?

Perhaps the stability of Blut Aus Nord is one reason for their musical transcendence beyond genre limitations. Founder, Vindsval, composed the first record in 1995 at age fifteen, while drummer and keyboardist, W.D. Feld, has been a collaborative member from the beginning. It’s true that the band’s raw black metal days are a thing of the past, but opener, ‘Chants of the Deep Ones’, reminds you that those artists masquerading as blackgaze should go back to their Blut Aus Nord records for inspiration. This is how you create a transient guitar sound built on ambient tones and misaligned autonomous shadows. The heavy reverb settings and trapped voice effects blunt the pre-programmed drums with a drowsy sense of time, almost as if you’re listening to the song at the precipice of a catatonic episode. How do they make their instruments writhe in agony on ‘Tales of the Old Dreamer’? You’ll shudder at the chill in the room and wonder if you’re in the presence of a poltergeist. Is it a guitar or keyboard producing those wailing pedal loops? The cacophony of voices resonating among the double-kick patterns lure you into a false sense of floating – you’re not floating. This is your mind envisaging your soul leaving your body at the point of death. Maybe Jesu is the nearest musical equivalent but making any form of comparison to the French trio is difficult.

Few artists can write an album with one motif and one continuous sound for the entirety of a record, but the lucid dream world of Disharmonium – Undreamable Abysses is one of the exceptions. ‘Into the Woods’ is the expedition through an alternate reality where your guide shows you how you live and exist in a different life. Your eyes are alert to the sharp focus of this dark underworld, taking in the evening glow of the blackened honey-coloured edifices and the distorted smiles of the people around you. Those screeching guitar effects ripple with high treble but remain in a kind of audio limbo where they will never achieve their intended volume. The same thing happens on ‘Neptune’s Eye’. Here, the blast beats and aggressive growl noises collide against a wall of dense guitars that reverberate to the extent of smothering the chord changes. Nothing sounds like this. To call it psychedelic black metal is too easy. ‘That Cannot Be Dreamed’ is the sound of you losing your moral judgement of right and wrong. The slow reverse-pitch bend accentuates the claustrophobia. Will you ever escape from this unfathomable dream world?

Of course, understanding the music of Blut Aus Nord is not the point. You don’t need to understand it to sit back in awe and wonderment. Is there a formula here? ‘Keziah Mason’ comes closest to revealing one with its thick bass textures and the ambient tone of the second guitar disguising the high-frequency pitch of the notes. It’s how your world will sound for a brief moment as you pass between the dreary state of being and the inertia of death after taking an overdose of sleeping pills. The coherence is inconceivable. You’d hope the afterlife does not match the aural pneumonia of closing track, ‘The Apotheosis of the Unnamable’, but you can easily become accustomed to your new condition. Those voices pleading from trapped souls long for some respite, but their eternal pain is not your problem. This is just a fact of your new reality, just as you accept the existence of evil as a consequence of free will.

It might lack the aggression and murderous insanity of previous records, but Disharmonium – Undreamable Abysses carves out another chapter in the ongoing development of Blut Aus Nord as a musical artist beyond genre classification.

JVB


Verdict


Release Date: 20/05/2022

Record Label: Debemur Morti Productions

Standout tracks: Chants of the Deep Ones, Neptune’s Eye, The Apotheosis of the Unnamable

Suggested Further Listening: Oranssi Pazuzu – Mestarin Kynsi (2020), The Axis of Perdition – Deleted Scenes from rhe Transition Hospital (2005), Dialogia – Nostrum (2020)