“Blut Aus Nord is not available for interviews” proclaims the press release accompanying Disharmonium — Undreamable Abysses (Debemur Morti), the band’s fourteenth full album since their inception in the mid-nineties. That Blut Aus Nord are conspicuous about being enigmatic says a lot about their attitude.
The French metallers are often called “avant-garde” and are indeed somewhat difficult to pin down, having never played live and with the members only being identified pseudonymously. The extravagant and somewhat florid press release tells us that they are “comparable to naught” and throws around phrases like “vast hyper-skilled rhythmic structures which traverse sea-mountains of madness towards lightless echelons far beyond comprehension”.
What is also alluded to is the sonic departure of the last record — 2019’s Hallucinogen — a more melodic affair which some have likened unflatteringly to “dad rock”. The suggestion is that Disharmonium — Undreamable Abysses (I guess the clue’s in the name) marks a return to “harmonic unease”. The album cover, by Maciej Kamuda, deserves a mention, depicting as it does in an almost comic book style what appears to be the body of an amorphous betentacled beast writhing against the backdrop of a star-filled sky and two moons.
The music itself is fittingly otherworldly, given the art and the descriptions provided by the PR. It could easily be described as “weird”, even for black metal. Maddened sliding guitars that seem to be melting as you listen to them swirl and ooze around thrashingly demented double kick drum rhythms and oddly dissonant harmonies. The pieces appear on casual listen to be instrumental, but in fact various vocal tones — from demonic choirs to devilish snarls — can often be discerned below the surface, refracted through the layers of noise and chaos. The effect is deeply unsettling and absolutely compelling.
And, actually, the more you let yourself sink into the whipping and jerky textures, the more that melody and structure can in fact be found. The rhythms, for all their complexity, are still anchored in a solid and hypnotic groove that you can nod your head to — the underlying pulse is often quite slow even when the ornamentation on top is running at breakneck pace.
The bass is a grounding force that often provides steady repeating ostinatos to hang on to. And those layered lead guitar melodies and harmonies, though unusual, are carefully constructed and sometimes even catchy. I’ve listened to a lot of “strange” music that comes across as nonsensical and poorly thought-out. This is the opposite; although the dynamics mostly lean towards earsplitting extremity, these pieces are finely woven intricate sonic tapestries.
Production-wise, there is a great balance between harshness and clarity. The drums have a wonderful old-school clatter, and are slightly buried beneath the wash of guitar noise. At the same time, every layer is absolutely clear, and the wide and interesting panning makes for an engrossing 3D stereo experience. There are also evocative and bleak electronic ambient noise interlude sections in between the main tracks which provide a break in the sonic violence.
Disharmonium — Undreamable Abysses is dense, impenetrable, and terrifying, like the soundtrack to a horrendous nightmare. It is also deceptively subtle, intricate, even delicate and graceful; although the sound seems to be perpetually on the edge of absolute collapse it never quite hits the ground. By the time we reach the dark and unnerving delay-pedal arpeggios and neo-classical choir harmonies of album closer “The Apotheosis Of The Unnamable”, the sensation is one of having reached the apex of a rapid and truly frightening journey though the outer reaches of some far off dystopian galaxy. When, right at the end, the riffs are taken over and replaced by an ominous bubbling, humming synth soundscape it is almost as if the entire planetary system has been swallowed unceremoniously by a black hole. It’s an exhilarating and chilling experience.
Disharmonium — Undreamable Abysses is all about atmosphere and sensation — ultimately, words can’t recreate the experience. Perhaps that’s why Blut Aus Nord refuse to make make themselves available for interviews.
Either way, this record is an emphatically victorious statement.
Buy the album here: https://blutausnord.bandcamp.com/album/disharmonium-undreamable-abysses
9 / 10