BLUT AUS NORD — Hallucinogen (review)

BLUT AUS NORD — Hallucinogen album cover Album · 2019 · Atmospheric Black Metal Buy this album from MMA partners
4/5 ·
siLLy puPPy
Purple is the new black! Well at least for a small strain of black metal bands that have engaged in steering the sub-genre of the metal world into a more psychedelic direction that was once only reserved for anti-Christian rants and misanthropic rage backed by incessantly brutal noise. In recent years many bands have expanded the black metal paradigm to tackle a more cosmic and esoteric approach with bands like Oranssi Pazuzu, Darkspace, A Forest Of Stars and a new legion of black metal artists that have merged the dark arts with post-rock, psychedelic rock and surreal dark ambient. One of the pioneers of the experimental and progressive realms of black metal, France’s BLUT AUS NORD has undergone many changes in its 25 year career releasing countless albums, EPs and splits.

While starting out as the one man project by Vindsval that crafted atmospheric black metal with dark ambient and dungeon synth sounds, the project became a fully fueled band project and with the release of 2003’s landmark album “The Work Which Transforms God,” launched BLUT AUS NORD into the big boy’s club of black metal artists with a groundbreaking mix of atmospheric gloom with black metal bombast, dark ambient rituals and laced with frigid cold industrial sounds. The band has continued to challenge the listener with progressive elements and touches of the avant-garde but for all intents and purposes has firmly and steadfastly remained a black metal band never allowing the additional elements to supersede the core sounds that Vindsval had set forth from the very beginning.

In the 2010s there has been a new trend in the ever expanding black metal universe, that being the merging of psychedelic elements with the already established atmospheric darkness into the black metal bombast. Bands like Oranssi Pazuzu have come from the underground into the mainstream and demonstrated how such sounds can take the listener to completely new dimensions of sonic possibilities and now some of the older more established bands are starting to take notice. With its 16th full-length studio album BLUT AUS NORD sheds the industrial elements that has served it well for the many albums and has instead adopted a more atmospheric approach that is rooted in the psychedelic side of the equation and with an album titled HALLUCINOGEN with what appears to be psychotropic fungal spores against a purple background of out space, it is obvious indeed that Vindsval has steered his baby in a new direction.

HALLUCINOGEN continues the trend of the mysterious prog laced black metal streams of consciousness that border on a post-rock menagerie of atmospheric swarms of sound that provide the proper contrasts however the new BLUT AUS NORD has abandoned the darkened industrial sounds for a spacier atmospheric delivery with a chorus of chanting intermittently giving some sort of sermon in the background while melodic black metal guitar riffs pummel away offering just a tinge of grating dissonance in the tuning but don’t stray too distantly from easy to follow journeys into orbit. The tracks are lengthy but not too long with the maximum time run of the opening “Nomos Nebuleum” sprawling past 8 minutes and the shorts just over 6. The seven tracks are all similar in their approach, namely sprawling soundscapes of distorted guitar, suffocating atmospheric cloud covers along with raging black metal vocals that are low in the mix that sound as if they are struggling to emerge from the din.

Overall, BLUT AUS NORD has taken a route that emphasizes the atmospheric constructs to the point where they have equal billing. While the lines are murky regarding more recent metal delineations of sub-genres, HALLUCINOGEN tends to sound more like the blackgaze and post-black metal of bands like Deafhaven than what BLUT AUS NORD has done in the past but still retains those familiar metal riffing marches with proggy touches. The dreamy choirs mixed with the harmonic interplay of the guitar and bass along with the controlled drumming that breaks into furious outbursts when called for, conspire to create an intricately designed methodology that even occasionally breaks into black’n’roll bursts of energy. BLUT AUS NORD has remained one of the most consistent bands of the genre and on HALLUCINOGEN it looks like this French outfit is not going to become irrelevant any time soon.
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