'Odinist' - Blut Aus Nord (6/10)
It's a curious thing that, as one of my most-loved black metal bands, Blut Aus Nord crosses me as such an inconsistent band. I wouldn't say that I've ever heard music of theirs that repulsed me, but there stands a great gap between their excellent and masterful work, and the stuff that just barely passes the standard of quality. On "Odinist", we hear Blut Aus Nord pursuing a familiar sound, fusing unsettling guitar textures with coldly industrial rhythms and atmosphere. As the band's more recent work goes, it feels curiously regressive for their style. Unlike the monumental "The Work That Transforms God" or the "777" series that would later follow, Blut Aus Nord keep their sights focused on a single approach throughout. The music is given the same darkly experimental vibe I've come to expect from Blut Aus Nord's music, but as an album, it leaves a sense of incompletion. "Odinist" offers more of the same challenging dissonance, but it doesn't offer the same dynamism heard in their best work.
Compared to any traditional form of black metal, Blut Aus Nord's music comes as something of a system shock, and this is no different on "Odinist". Although the same black metal sound palette is retained, Blut Aus Nord never feel aggressive, or even emotional. Like much of their mid and latter era work, "Odinist" feels defined by the inherent lack of emotion. This may not necessarily impede a listener from feeling some sense of foreboding dread, but Blut Aus Nord's style evokes a sense of unfeeling humanity. It's as if the world went through a Dr. Strangelove-ordeal nuclear winter, and all that was left was a bitter superintelligent AI computer with a penchant for black metal. The guitars and drums each sound sterile and cold, although- as anyone who's experienced their unique atmosphere- this isn't necessarily a bad thing. As a sort of contrast, the vocals are garbled and indecipherable, sounding about as reserved as a diabolical rasp can get. Perhaps moreso than other Blut Aus Nord albums, "Odinist" emphasizes this 'cold' feeling. For music so mechanical, there's a monstrously profound malevolence in the atmosphere of "Odinist". Perhaps it gets across through the guitars- which sound perpetually out of tune and 'off'- but the atmosphere is certainly the highlight here. Sadly, this seems to be the only thing that Blut Aus Nord really excel at here.
Although there are several fantastic riffs here (the melodic motif on the title track really stands out), "Odinist" rarely conveys a sense of focus in its songwriting. The riffs are well-composed in of themselves, but they're tied together with little adhesive or flow. As if the industrial assembly line seeks to manufacture parts at random, Blut Aus Nord's composition feels noticeably lowered. The occasionally incompatible riff structure is a staple of Blut Aus Nord's music, but it is taken too far on "Odinist". Were it not for the brilliant industrial element, the album would have risked becoming incredibly boring within a few tracks. Blut Aus Nord's music is challenging, but even several listens in, there's never the sense that the songs have some secret code to crack. Paired with an intro and outro that feel largely disconnected with the rest of the album, "Odinist" suffers from a poor sense of structure and flow. It's one of the weaker records they've put out, but their inimitable style and atmosphere is here, and that's enough to warrant checking it out.