October 11, 2019 Blut Aus Nord – Hallucinogen (Album Review)
Blut Aus Nord, the French masters of aesthetic Black Metal, return to this earthly plane with Hallucinogen on Friday, October 11th, 2019.
Released once again through Debemur Morti Productions, their home since the first part of the 777 trilogy in 2011, Hallucinogen marks two years since Deus Salutis Meæ, their previous effort. Dubbed ‘The Blood of the North’ in loosely conjugated German, Blut Aus Nord once again has Vindsval at the helm, and the famously cloaked Frenchman is joined by Co-Founder W.D. Feld handling programming and percussion, longtime Bassist Ghöst, and relative newcomer Thorns on drums.
Giving fans a taste of what was to come, released to the public a month ago, “Nomos Nebuleam” wastes no time painting a vast desolate wasteland. That in mind, judging from Dehn Sora’s cover artwork, the setting could be an alien planet in the deepest recesses of space, or perhaps a microscopic obstacle within the fibers of everyday life. Regardless of setting, this opening track sets the tone for the album as a whole, which goes on to envelop you in a sonic prison, one where the endless plenum of space and existence becomes more stifling and suffocating than a tight vacuum.
Largely eschewing both the high-pitched rasp and low-slung gurgle common to Black Metal, Vindsval makes use of sweeping choral arrangements and wispy solo vocals. While the drums are a bit more nuanced than one would expect from a proper Black Metal band, the tinny shrill lead guitar keep the song rooted in the traditional motions of the genre. As the song passes the halfway mark, the tone briefly brightens with an Eastern-themed riff, before the track drifts off. The vocals here are limited to distant choral snarls, a technique employed throughout the album.
Taking the second lap, “Nebeleste” grabs the wheel and steers album back onto the Black Metal path, including more of the ethereal guitars and half-muted vocals from its predecessor, interwoven with crisp keyboard work and some harshly harmonized vocals. The track also features a burst of guitar layering that would not feel out of place on a Tool album, recent or otherwise.
Then there is a plucky clean guitar wrapped in warm synthesizers which opens “Anthosmos,” but this combination is quickly outdone by the strong pull of the band’s Black Metal origins. The dense, sad choral work paints a dark image of a cold stone monastery, from which willing participants issue bleak, anguished proclamations. This track serves as another archetype for the album as a whole: the duality between lush organic terrain as molded by the singular guitar, and the brutal aggression of the raw Black Metal influences. This is while the near-title track “Haallucinählia” follows this same tortured pattern.
In the end the haunting closure of “Cosma Procyiris” is a relative change of pace, starting with an inviting, upbeat riff which mollifies the anxiety of previous tracks, then fading off into a soothing orchestra passage, before closing with what could be the heaviest riff on the entire album to wrap up the last few minutes of this journey.
Hallucinogen starts with back-breaking, soul-crushing momentum, and its seven tracks offer nearly fifty minutes of vapid feelings and awkward landscapes. Thick slabs of Black Metal guitar and percussion are peppered by salient lulls of quiet introspection; each of these halves is handled with profound dexterity and technical skill, owing to the talent and direction of cloaked band leader Vindsval. For these reasons, Cryptic Rock gives the latest from the Black Metal auteurs Blut Aus Nord 4 out of 5 stars.