Blut Aus Nord
Memoria Vetusta III: Saturnian Poetry

We had to wait 13 years between Memoria Vetusta I: Fathers of the Icy Age and its second chapter, Dialogue with the Stars – which has since become one of my favorite metal albums of all time. Now Vindsval has only taken 5 years to deliver Saturnian Poetry. Don’t hold it against him; in the meantime, he’s started and completed the 777 trilogy, and released three albums in the (ongoing?) Liber series, each one with its own bracing and distinctive sonic vision. I’ve long held that he’s one of the most brilliant metal musicians on the planet. You may not, but you can’t deny that he’s certainly one of the most prolific. This is already his third release this year, behind the Debemur MoRTi EP and a split with P.H.O.B.O.S.

After the avant-garde, esoteric and industrial-tinged explorations of the 777 series and the deconstructed, corrosive murk of the Liber albums, it’s good to hear Vindsval work in this style again. Like its predecessor, Memoria Vetusta III is astral and atmospheric, gorgeous and dissonant all at once. Unlike other composers, Vindsval doesn’t employ darkness and light as two separate units to be balanced across each song’s structure; instead, he seems to work with melody and dissonance simultaneously for a captivating and unsettling effect.

The compositional style here is endlessly shifting and mutative, ranging far from the standard structures of rock-influenced metal. And yet there’s also an amazing sense of control and cohesion at work, as Vindsval orchestrates a blizzard of fantastic riffs, seraphic chanting, trollish croaks, and furious drumming (credited to ‘Thorns’; no mention of W.D. Feld, unless it’s a pseudonym) into passages that blend one into the next with a constant and roiling fluidity. These long songs are more like classical movements, flowing and discursive, each one based around its own motif or theme.

Despite this expansive sound, I’m reluctant to tag this as merely ‘progressive’ black metal (in the same way we’d classify similar work in the rock, death metal or sludge genres), and it’s also too structured and precise to fall in with the oft-meandering Cascadian sound of recent years. It is not quite like the symphonic grandeur of Emperor or the reverent hum of Drudkh or the unearthly, alien howl of Deathspell Omega, and yet it captures the majesty and magic of all three; a rare sui generis in a genre that’s been deconstructed, adorned, and reinterpreted over and over by various camps around the world.

Beyond that description, it would be futile to detail these songs (or perhaps, a betrayal of the personal, Romantic nature of the experience), just as I couldn’t tell you exactly what it’s like to stare into a fire.

Necrolord was an inspired and perfect choice for the cover art. It’s the sepia-toned antithesis to the lurid obsidian-and-purple fantasy of In the Nightside Eclipse. There’s also a nod to fantasy here with the wooden sylph in the foreground, but I was struck more by the pastoral tranquility of the entire composition. As the melodies overlapped and succeeded each other in rapid profusion, I imagined a centuries-speed time-lapse of roots delving down into the earth. Roots split and shot out ever-thickening tendrils, each one crushing rocks and cleaving the soil. They searched down into the dark, even as the branches above yearned heavenward towards the light. Close your eyes as you listen and see where the album takes you.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Jordan Itkowitz
October 6th, 2014

Comments

  1. Commented by: gordeth

    Great review. Vindsval really can’t be praised enough in my opinion. I love everything he’s done. But, there are other permanent members in the band now, so this could be more of a group effort.


  2. Commented by: gabaghoul

    Thorns is credited on drums for this release. Added note.


  3. Commented by: Luke_22

    Nice review. I was a bit late getting into Blut Aus Nord but I’ve enjoyed backtracking through their catalog so very much looking forward to this. Digging the artwork.


  4. Commented by: Jason

    Great review. I loved the first couple, but I have to admit to falling off the deep end since “The Work Which Transforms God.” Those first three were killer in my book, and I need to get back on the train.


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