Pyramids – A Northern Meadow

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Anybody here with broad tastes recall The Blue Nile? They of 80s Indie Electronica fame? For some reason the wrought moments of their minimalist, stark melancholy spring to mind when harmonized, plaintive vocals burst through the chaotic ambience of Texan super-project Pyramids. The rest sounds nothing like, of course…

Doubtless somewhat responsible for the complex, occasionally harsh noise surrounding those honeyed tones, Blut Aus Nord‘s Vindsval and GorgutsColin Marston join Mike Dean‘s men for sophomore album A Northern Meadow (Profound Lore). Lead track ‘In Perfect Stillness, I’ve Only Found Sorrow’ emerges like some lo-fi, Post-Black Doves; shoegaze Indie strains blending with slashing yet melodic guitar, while the high-pitched, soaring vocals bring Thom Yorke into the equation. Though this is the early template, strange soundscapes envelop the structures with the intricate rhythms and Post leadwork furthering the Radiohead connection, albeit with more weight to the body – an at times crushing sequence of blows bursting a colliding crescendo of noise in both ‘The Earth Melts Into Red Gashes…’ and ‘The Substance of Grief Is Not Imaginary’.

As the titles suggest cheery this ain’t, yet the euphoric effects of the music at times contrast from the intent and that pensive, melancholy voice despite the obvious emotion of the whole: the resonant, rising harmonies and emotive, synthesized atmospherics of ‘Indigo Birds’ charging the soul and calming the frozen wastes of agonised, railing riffs.

In many ways this is the aural depiction of a nervous breakdown, the conflicting emotions crashing together, those fluctuating rhythmic structures and occasionally blackened riffs being the violent mood swings. The complexities and contradictions in the sound are both zenith and Nemesis, highlighting both the harshness and the beauty but also occasionally dampening just as things threaten to explode. Picture Red Sparrowes or Alcest if you will, with the hostile anguish retained just to tease whilst remaining an integral part. The dark-Mastodon feel of ‘Consilience’, a sinister organ adding to the portentous mass, closes an album in equal parts exquisite, beguiling yet a sprawling achievement; one most definitely worth sticking on every time you’re dwelling on that crossroads between depression and ecstasy.

 

8.0/10

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PAUL QUINN

Blut Aus Nord – Saturnian Poetry

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Most bands go through different periods of stagnation and productivity, however there are few that can boast such extreme fluctuations in releases as French based Blut Aus Nord. For a career that began with an almost well-paced output, recent years have seen a flurry of work unleashed. For many bands this can see a slip in the quality or consistency of their records, however Blut Aus Nord defy this trend, being one of the few bands that manage to astound with every album, consistently defying expectations. While every album may be different and offer a new musical direction, there’s no denying that they all have a distinct sound that only main man Vindsval can achieve. Their latest offering is no exception.

Saturnian Poetry (Debemur Morti) comes in as the third album in the Memoria Vetusta series, following on from Fathers of the Icy Age (Impure Creations) in 1996 and more recently Dialogue with the Stars (Candlelight) in 2009 and quickly proves the most relatable of the series, and of Vindsval’s work as of late, particularly when compared to his 777 series or even his most recent split with P.H.O.B.O.S., Triunity (Debemur Morti), and is one of the best-defined and most enjoyable albums the band has released to date. Many of their previous releases have tended towards the avant-garde, alienating the listener with dissonant harmonies and awkward time changes, however Saturnian Poetry takes a step back from this constant push towards new ground. Some may view this as regression, falling back into the vast realms of relatable music, but the album still carries the distinct Blut Aus Nord sound without feeling like they have traded in any of their principals, or turned to a more mainstream position.

Vast ethereal landscapes captured in layers of distortion, erratic drumming and harrowed screams throw us into a desolate but majestic landscape. There is truly only one way to describe this album: cold. Despite its tendency towards grand melodic lines, Saturnian Poetry avoids large symphonic instrumentals, instead making the guitars the main feature of the music with majestic chord progressions backed by occasional synth or vocal lines. It does however contain Vindsval’s usual tendency towards progressive structuring, rapidly twisting through varying soundscapes as each song unfolds.  There is also a marked improvement in production quality, and with such an intensive mix of instrumentation lines, this allows the subtler touches to shine through.

This release also marks the entrance of drummer Thorns, whose vast collection of previous work includes Frostmoon Eclipse, Deathrow and Acherontas. While previous albums have featured talented collaborations with artists or programming by Vindsval, Thorns seems to gel naturally with the music in a way that the others haven’t managed in the past. His tendency towards unusual patterns, breaks and crashes seem a natural part of the music, and often prove some of the most compelling performances on Saturnian Poetry.

Opening on a soft electronic intro with ‘prelude’, it’s a deceptively calm start before the ravages of ‘Paien’ kick in and the sound of the album truly unfolds. Both ‘Paien’ and ‘Tellus Mater’ set a vast, majestic tone that carries through, allowing for soaring vocal lines and large but chaotic guitar parts. There are few moments on the album that really steps back to allow the listener to rest, save for the intro and sections of ‘Forhist,’ whose mid-tempo riffs are often interspersed with manic fills across the drum kit. While the album fits together best as a whole rather than being taken by its individual parts, it’s ‘Henosis’ that provides the stand out moments. Opening on the albums more majestic sound, it intersperses hints of Blut Aus Nord’s more dissonant tendencies halfway through the track, an effective and welcome nod to previous work while simultaneously embracing the new style.

‘Metaphor of the Moon’ and ‘Clarissima Mundi Lumina’ take this another step further when closing the album with a subtle shift in sound. Low growls and stabs of awkward uneasy guitar cutting through, these tracks are significantly darker than the others – each track is a descent toward the closing darkness and demands the listeners full attention if they ever hope to draw the best out of this album.

Saturnian Poetry sees Vindsval provide some of his most compelling music to date and further cements Blut Aus Nord as one of the most exciting black metal acts in the scene today.

 

10.0/10

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CAITLIN SMITH