'777 - The Desanctification' - Blut Aus Nord (8/10)
Back in April of this year, I was wowed by the first in a prospective trilogy of releases by the French dark metal act Blut Aus Nord. '777 - Sect(s)' sought the beginning of a three-album project, each bound together as part of one nightmarish journey. To hear that the band was planning on releasing the entire set of albums within the course of a year was exciting, to say the least. Blut Aus Nord has been prone to releasing their unique blend of avant-garde black metal quite quickly, but what has made them exceptional is that they do this at no sacrifice to the quality and depth of the music. Over the course of many listens, I felt my appreciation for '777 - Sect(s)' expand, and I feel the same is true for the second album in this saga.
'777 - The Desanctification' quite literally picks up where 'Sect(s)' left off. As the songs in the first were labelled 'Epitome' I-VI, this follows suit with 'Epitome' VII-XIII. Stylistically and conceptually, 'Desanctification' gives every impression that it is a continuation of the previous album, not a sequel so much as a direct follow-up to what was released months before. Stylistically, this is very close to what 'Sect(s)' offered as well. The music is a constant balancing act between dissonant, jarring black metal, and lighter, deeply atmospheric passages. Blut Aus Nord has claimed that this album takes the listener 'deeper into the nightmare realm', and to a certain extent, this is true. Although the music isn't all too different, there is a somewhat looser approach to the performance and composition this time around, lending itself more to disturbing atmosphere than the head-scratching black metal that dominated parts of the first album. It seems atmosphere is winning the balancing act, if only a bit. Truth be told, Blut Aus Nord's sound still runs around the map.
While I wouldn't call Blut Aus Nord the most coherent songwriters in the world, they have a real knack for creating incredible moments in their music, and even better transitions to tie them together. Not every idea in 'The Desanctification' works perfectly- sometimes, a part may drag on a few measures too long, or the band will let a section become too chaotic- but they know how to take this palette of ideas and arrange them in such a way that makes everything sound meaningful to an extent. A perfect example of this is the second track 'Epitome VIII', in which the first three minutes meander through an incredibly harsh and dissonant soundscape. It is certainly a challenge for the ears, but would have passed me as being aimless if it weren't for the majestic melodic climax a little after the three minute mark; everything peaks up in unison and intensifies the surreal vibe I get throughout the album.
Performance-wise, there are few bands that use texture and tone so well in the metal world. Guitarist Vindsval has an amazing grasp of some gorgeously dreary guitar tones, and the electronic/industrial aspect of the band never feels weak or gimmicky; it is all mixed together into one darkly ethereal blend. As one might ascertain from a description of the band, the production style is equally as chaotic, throwing multiple layers of ambiance at the listener under the main action. One aspect of the sound that does not always work however are the vocals. They are- for the most part- fairly generic by black metal standards, but the way they echo incessantly makes them more of an ambient garble, neither complimenting nor necessarily hurting the music.
Blut Aus Nord have always been a band that plays on their own terms, and the '777' trilogy has made me more excited about them than ever before. Regarding whether 'The Desanctification' is better than 'Sect(s)' or not: I'm not quite sure. Perhaps 'Sect(s) had a better feeling of organization to it, but 'The Desanctification' has left more of an impression on me. This is atmosphere made deadly. Even sparing the context of the trilogy, 'The Desanctification' is a devastating album, and one of the more disturbing records I've heard in a long time.