Friday, November 11, 2011

Blut Aus Nord - 777 - The Desanctification (2011)

The Desanctification comes fairly hot on the heels of the last Blut Aus Nord experiment, Sect(s) this past April, but I almost wish that the two had been joined as a single, double-LP, since their central tropes are so similar in content. Then again, this is only the second of THREE recordings in this 777 series, so even that prospect would not paint the entire picture. Nonetheless, the French pick up directly where they left off. Like its conceptual predecessor, the songs are not given titles, instead dubbed as 'Epitomes' with affixed Roman numerals that the canny listener might learn to somehow separate them. It makes sense from the perspective that the band desires the audience to lose itself in the whole album rather than focused on particular tracks, but I can't help but feel that it also leeches a bit of character from some of the better individual pieces.

I say this because I was not entirely thrilled by the first few songs on the album. It's the similar sort of drone-heavy content the band presented in the spring, with mechanized, often industrial aesthetics to the drumming (hell, "Epitome VII" even has a hip hop undercurrent to the beat). Jangling, eerie guitars are looped in cycles of haunting regret while the vocals shift between poles of faint, melodic, layered groans and the occasional bitter bite of their black metal background. Most of the pieces contain one central 'hook' that they build towards (like the arching melody around 5:30 into "Epitome VII"), yet these don't always feel as if they were worth the wait. For example, "Epitome VIII" incorporates some grimier vocals redolent of their past works, but the bounce of the guitars and the background ambiance feels a little dry, and the big melody coming in at the bridge just doesn't feel like enough of a payoff.

Deeper into the track list, however, I felt that the stronger material at long last arrived in the fourth track "Epitome X". Cleaner, layered vocals create a psychedelic somnolence that erupts into these beautiful, glazed guitars which feel like a field of flowers suddenly blooming on a cold, barren steppe. "Epitome XI" is another of the strongest pieces, with a steady electronic ethno ambient pulse beat beneath the droning, life-sapping guitars and a sense of immediate, blinding desperation to the gradual curves of the distant, melodic guitar slogging along the top. The closer "Epitome XIII" also has a nice texture to it, with a doom-like, crashing gait and a dissonant hint of disjointedness that mirrors the mood of the album preceding it, sort of as if it were tying off a knot.

Ultimately, this wasn't quite so strong or compelling as its thematic precursor Sect(s). I don't think it's a huge stretch to claim that Blut Aus Nord seem to be drifting further and further away from their metallic roots. Sure, there are distorted guitars and occasional lapses into the primal aggression which once inspired them, but this is more of an ambient, mood piece with a ton of guitars to replace what might otherwise be a bank of synthesizers. Fans of those drone and sludge artists not afraid to incorporate warmer melodic textures into their composition will find a lot to devour here, but I did not spend much of the 43 minute playtime in the same rapture I felt through past Blut Aus Nord recordings. The Desanctification is fully consistent in tone with Sect(s), but I'm hoping that the final chapter in the trilogy will prove more revelatory than its midsection.

Verdict: Win [7.5/10]

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