Blut Aus Nord
777: Cosmosophy

In last year’s review of 777: The Desantification, I noted the evolution of transcendental melody and ethereal majesty from the uglier, first part of the trilogy to the second chapter, and wondered if that arc would continue into 777: Cosmosophy. Over the past year, Blut Aus Nord (just Vindsval now) has continued to develop and expand its palette for this conclusion – resulting in some remarkable sonic additions – but there’s still plenty of the grimy, industrial-tinged murk that defined the band’s atmospheric middle period. So it appears that the answer is yes, though the brilliantly lit summit is mostly clouded in gloom.

Cosmosophy is made up of five final Epitomes, numbered XIV through XVIII, for a 45 minute running time. Like the previous two chapters, this is not metal of the cathartic or aggressive variety. It’s mood music for the dark; a film score for nightmares and starscapes. Each track here still maintains the same deliberate pace that’s kept time for the entire 777 cycle – one long, flowing and somewhat monotonous trudge. This simplistic rhythm creates a steady framework for bright, gleaming and coldly alien melodies that writhe and twist in the air like a metallic aurora borealis. Much of the album plays out in this mid-range, droning landscape, with few truly quiet moments (the delicate, mystical dirge at the start of XVI) or harsh and discordant clatter (the final minutes of that same track).

Epitomes XIV and XVI also feature Vindsval switching from his usual rasps to a new clean vocal style that sounds both hymnal and haunted. In Epitome XVII, his vocals become even more plaintive, and as they float atop a plodding beat and rain-soaked keys, he sounds like The Cure’s Robert Smith, and the music a blackened cut from their seminal goth mopefest Disintegration. It’s this track that shows how far and how boldly Blut Aus Nord has ranged from the early black metal blizzard of Ultima Thulee or Fathers of the Icy Ages.

The new vocal approach in the largely industrial-ambient Epitome XV, however, is nothing less than annoying. It’s a sneering spoken word, all in French, and where spoken word in other native languages like Finnish or Norwegian (or even English, for that matter) manage to sound rough or or savage or even sublime, French doesn’t carry that same menace, at least not for me. Luckily, the soaring and tortured arias of guitar and choral voices in the track’s second half elevate it back to the majestic level achieved by the opener. Cosmosophy closes out with a more jagged (yet still mid-paced) industrial stomp like something from The Work Which Transforms God. It’s a fitting outro for the entire trilogy, but brings nothing new aside from the coda: a formless void penetrated by a single whistling tone. It’s a speck of light being devoured by blackness, an epiphany fading and forgotten, and a quiet end for the entire 18-segment cycle.

Ultimately, I am left impressed by Cosmosophy, though not utterly transported. Taken as a whole, there is a satisfying arc and evolution across all of 777, though given the overall homogeneity of mood and pacing, I still wonder whether the ideas developed during this entire cycle couldn’t have been compressed into one album, or a double release at most. And yes, we got three Blut Aus Nord releases in the time that it takes other bands to release just one, so I suppose I shouldn’t complain. 777’s most significant accomplishment is that it’s pushed the band far beyond what could be called metal in any kind of traditional sense. Although the roots here are obviously in black and doom metal, 777 sounds more like a collection of hymnals or a film score.

If we look back on Blut Aus Nord’s discography five years hence, will this trilogy be an important turning point that helped to broaden, stretch and diversify Vindsval’s overall aesthetic? Or was the trilogy just an interesting, albeit indulgent experiment (that still, despite its breadth, is still collectively not as satisfying as Memoria Vetusta II, with its more fluid, astral and dynamic compositions)? Perhaps 777 will become something like Trent Reznor/NIN’s Ghosts I-IV, a double album packed with short, choppy instrumentals from both halves of his sonic palette – the tinkly and soothing vs the discordant and bruising. In the grand scheme of Reznor’s career, the Ghosts release is somewhat of a novelty – a vehicle for experimentation freed from the constraints of typical album structure or even songwriting. Yet Ghosts was most successful in laying the template and clearing the path for Reznor’s Oscar-winning score for The Social Network, or his haunting work on David Fincher’s version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo after that. I think that Vinsdval, given his dual palette of the celestial and the corrosive, could easily pair up with some of Europe’s shock and horror auteurs like Pascal Laugier (Martyrs, The Tall Man), Alexandre Bustillo (Inside, Livid), Tom Six (The Human Centipede) or Lars Von Trier (Antichrist, Melancholia). Music of this nightmarish richness deserves such visual accompaniment.

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Written by Jordan Itkowitz
October 15th, 2012

Comments

  1. Commented by: Nick Taxidermy

    Disintegration comparisons? oh shit…


  2. Commented by: gabaghoul

    it’s not a bad thing… I love that album


  3. Commented by: Biff_Tannen

    Good review. Seems like we have just about the same opinion of the album.

    Don’t forget that they also gave us “Liber II” in this short time period as well !


  4. Commented by: gabaghoul

    crap I haven’t even heard that yet. Liber I didn’t do much for me though…


  5. Commented by: gordeth

    I would argue that music of this nightmarish richness doesn’t need such visual accompaniment. Has any song ever been improved by pairing it with video? All I like is some nice artwork and packaging to point my imagination in the right direction. Speaking of which, I’m surprised they didn’t make the artwork for this series more cohesive.


  6. Commented by: gabaghoul

    “Closer” is a terrific song made even better by a visually striking video. “The Perfect Drug,” while a good song, was definitely improved by an also lush and hypnotic video. Tons of other examples, but I see your point. I was just suggesting that while Blut Aus Nord doesn’t need visual accompaniment, the music could sure inspire some fantastic imagery.


  7. Commented by: Mindi Bee

    Well written, informative and multi-dimensional review. Thank you.


  8. Commented by: Nick Taxidermy

    no, Disintegration is my favourite album ever. getting my favourite black metal band compared to that is awesome.


  9. Commented by: Biff_Tannen

    Liber II is much better than part one , to my ears. May not really be your style, though.


  10. Commented by: gabaghoul

    well then you’ll have to let me know if you agree with the comparison Nick


  11. Commented by: Deepsend Records

    This album sits at the top position of my year’s favorite albums. This album struck me in the same way Godflesh albums did upon first listen. I love the trilogy and disagree that it could’ve been trimmed down to a double album. Aside from the spoken word on Cosmosphy, there’s no single song I would want to do without.


  12. Commented by: DK777

    Each song is its own symphony, with movements, shifts in texture and instrumentation, and dynamics. There’s a lot of harshness and also some of the prettiest music this band has ever released.

    Very detailed writeup; your stance on the overall place of this in their catalogue is notable. I think this will wind up being one that people DO return to over time…


  13. Commented by: Guilliame

    The Lick it Up video captures the subtleties and depth of the song and enhances it’s message.


  14. Commented by: Guilliame

    Having Lita Ford in her old videos improves the songs about 90 percent.


  15. Commented by: Biff_Tannen

    LOL ^

    Now I’ll have lick it up/the video playing in my head all fucking day !


  16. Commented by: E. Thomas

    this is the best of the 3. i like the more melodic hypnotic riffs and the clean vocals.


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