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4.00 | 12 ratings | 4 reviews
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Album · 1995


1. The Son of Hoarfrost (6:01)
2. The Plain of Ida (8:52)
3. From Hlidskjalf (7:42)
4. My Prayer Beyond Ginnungagap (5:10)
5. Till I Perceive Bifrost (7:06)
6. On the Way to Vigrid (5:54)
7. Rigsthula (3:57)
8. The Last Journey of Ringhorn (7:36)

Total Time: 52:22


- Vindsval / all vocals and instruments

About this release

Released on the 15th of January 1995 by Impure Creations Records
Recorded and mixed by Vindsval in 1995 A.Y.P.S.
Cover illustration by Max Gherrack.
Logo by Christophe Szpajdel.
Re-issued in 2005 by Candelight Records with a different artwork.

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siLLy puPPy
The French black metal band BLUT AUS NORD has always pretty much been the project of Vindsval which began all the way back in 1994 with a couple demos under the Vlad moniker being released, but soon after the name of the project was changed to the grammatically incorrect German phrase meaning “Blood From North.” On this debut album Vindsval handles all vocal and guitar duties but he also employs the percussive and keyboard skills of W.D. Feld, so this debut is more or less a duo rather than a solo project. ULTIMA THULÉE (a term that denotes any place beyond the known borders of the world in medieval geography) finds Vindsval and Feld riding the second wave of Norwegian black metal like a gazillion other bands of the era. Before BLUT AUS NORD cemented itself as more of a real band project and before the extremely avant-garde jangly and nightmarish atmospheric dissonance that the band would become famous for, we get a couple of more or less standard second wave black metal releases.

This debut sounds to me a lot like early Enslaved meets Darkthrone with the aggressive guitar delivery complete with blastbeats, gnarly tortured shrieks and muddy lo-fi production with only meagre progressive leanings. The band’s knack for atmospheric embellishments also begins here and includes lots of scary keyboards however on this one they haven’t quite found their unique niche and sound a lot like early Burzum especially from the “Hvis Lyset Tar Oss” and “Filosofem” era. The album flows fairly well throughout its entirety and despite not dripping in originality is quite competently performed and a decent listen that i personally find appealing. Of course, this album gets overlooked for the very reason of not holding a candle to the more sophisticated developments which begin on “The Mystical Best Of Rebellion” but ULTIMA THULÉE is a solid black metal release that lovers of atmospheric black metal with heavy doses of dark ambient and dungeon synth should check out and is an interesting chapter of this unique band’s musical history.
Look at either versions of this album's artwork. The original, a pencil drawing of a grim, wintery landscape. The re-release, a surrealistic, colored portrait of a grim, wintery landscape. That is what Blut aus Nord is trying to convey with their debut album, 'Ultima Thulee', and they do it much better than many of their contemporaries. 'Ultima Thulee' was actually my first exposure to Blut aus Nord and remains my favorite of the whole legacy.

If you've read my review of Paysage d'Hiver's 'Steineiche', you'll recall me stating that that particular album/demo's take on the winter theme will never find an equal. I guess I kinda have to eat those words as this album will get a slightly higher score than 'Steineiche', but in my defense it's worth noting that this album has more of a heathen flavor to its approach with titles including Hlidskjalf, Ginnungagap, and Bifrost. Therefore, it would be fair to say that Vindsval intended the theme here to be more about heathenism and such (which he would continue with on Blut aus Nord's sophomore album) than just winter in general.

Songs like "The Son of Hoarfrost" and "From Hlidskjalf" are the best examples of the typical tones set forth on this album: rawer sounding black metal with keyboards to generate the cold feeling and plenty of variation to keep the listener hooked. Variations come in the forms of both music played, which Vindsval has written exceptionally well; and tempo, an early example being the faster sections of "The Son of Hoarfrost", an otherwise slow to mid-paced song.

Another nice treat for many of the songs here is the period of quieter ambiance featuring keyboards and/or cleaner sounding guitar in the middle of the song. These sections provide excellent amounts of beauty to this wintry soundscape. On some songs, however, Vindsval made some welcome variation on this. "Till I Perceive Bifrost" doesn't feature one of those breaks at all (unless you count the intro), "On the Way to Vigrid" features clean guitar played alongside the rawer sounding guitar, and "The Plain of Ida" is centered around being more atmospheric with the keyboards in the simple but bleak and beautiful sounding intro and later the series of dark sounding pulses that lead to the eerie sound of the guitar fading back in.

Vindsval does the vocals well here too. The main style he uses is a sort of black metal screech; but amid the black metal blizzard here, it reminds me of howling wind. He does use some cleaner sounding vocals on "The Son of Hoarfrost" during the ambient break as well. I'd love to see some lyrics to go along this; but as most of you know, Blut aus Nord just don't do that.

The flow of the songs on 'Ultima Thulee' is arranged with such skill that it feels like some epic wintry journey. "The Son of Hoarfrost" feels like a journey across the rocky mountainside during a blizzard. Then across the calmer, snow covered "Plain of Ida" to ascend a great mountain at "From Hlidskjalf". A pause at the top of the mountain while the choral howling of "My Prayer Beyond Ginnungagap" plays through is followed by a descent to the beat of "Till I Perceive Bifrost" and it's strangely distinct sound of whale calls (wtf?). Then, we go "On the Way to Vigrid", stop for a pretty ambient break with "Rigsthula", and make our final approach to our wintry grave in "The Last Journey of Ringhorn"'s beautiful sounding finish.

The scenic bleakness and majesty of 'Ultima Thulee' is what makes listening to winter themed atmospheric black metal so enthralling. Now that I'm in this icy prison, I don't think I want to find a way out.
Before Blut Aus Nord ventured into the grounds of more experimental black metal sounds, it came up with a couple of more traditional black metal albums, Ultima Thulée being the first album. I might mislead the reader here when I describe this as traditional black metal because Ultima Thulée isn’t a basic Darkthrone worship album, no, the band has definitely its own thing going on here with a brilliant winter atmosphere. This is traditional only in the shadow of the band’s later era with industrial sounds and horror elements that slowly began to form in the 2000s.

On Ultima Thulée, Blut Aus Nord sounds absolutely desolate, cold and magical. The original black and white cover art depicts the album truthfully: it is indeed a really wintry album and one of the best in that category. The guitar sound is really heavy and while the guitar is responsible for most of the great melodies on the album (hear the middle section of ”On the Way to Wigrid” and the odd but great guitar outro of ”The Plain of Ida”), synth melodies are of great importance here, sometimes in total interplay with the guitars and sometimes exclusively in the spotlight - both styles witnessed in the middle sections of ”From Hlidskjalf”, a definite highlight on the album. ”My Prayer Beyond Ginnungagap” takes the role of the most original track on the album, being a 5-minute track of sole clean male chanting. It fits perfectly to the repetitive and atmospheric nature of Ultima Thulée: this is the real a cappella of early Blut Aus Nord’s black metal.

It is a mystery to me how an album like ”Ultima Thulée” can be conceived, and apparently it’s unknown to everyone else too, because ”Ultima Thulée” hasn’t faced any serious contenders although it’s been 15 years since its initial release. Surely bands like Paysage d’Hiver know how to create wintry atmospheres, but these two bands still play very different styles in my eyes so I wouldn’t start to compare them at all. ”Ultima Thulée” does have its weak points but they are rare: only few moments of the album sound mediocre but it is allowed because it’s still one hell of a 52-minute escapism journey to desolate winter mountains.
"Ultima Thulée" is the debut full-length studio album by French black metal act Blut aus Nord. The album was released through Impure Creations Records in January 1995. The original release was limited to 1000 copies. The album was reissued in 2005 by Candlelight Records and made more readily available. Blut aus Nord was initially a one-man act consisting of Vindsval who handled all vocals and instruments, but on "Ultima Thulée" he is helped out by W.D. Feld on drums and keyboards, and Ogat who is credited for playing session bass.

The music on "Ultima Thulée" is atmospheric black metal. The vocals are raw/raspy and kind of screaming in a way that I usually associate with suicide black metal acts. The music features atmospheric keyboards in addition to the usual rock/metal instruments in guitars, bass and drums. The keyboards don´t add neither a symphonic nor an especially melodic element to the music though. They are primarily there to create a cold and dark atmosphere. There are a couple of alternative tracks on the album which include an atmospheric keyboard solo piece and a choir piece but most of the tracks are just well composed atmospheric black metal.

The sound production is raw and primitive. Not far from sounding like a demo, but it´s one of those cases where the muddy sound suits the music well and provides it with that last rawness and authenticity. The production and the music simply make each other better and "Ultima Thulée" is ultimately a quality atmospheric black metal release. A 3.5 star (70%) rating is deserved.

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