Blut Aus Nord – Memoria Vetusta III – Saturnian Poetry (Debemur Morti)
I hope we’re not taking Blut Aus Nord for granted. In a genre where debuts cast career-long shadows, they’ve been on a hell of a run. Along with a handful of EPs and splits, the French black metallers have issued ten full-lengths since band-brain Vindsval, then 15 years old, recorded Ultima Thulée in 1995. But what’s more impressive is Blut Aus Nord managing to develop not just a distinctive voice, but distinctive voices. There are the Lovecraftian event horizons, the deathly industrial monstrosities, the rhythmically off-kilter avant-garde discoveries, and the blustery contrapuntal blasts. At worst, these branches have been interesting. At best, they’ve become touchstones. They all add up to the kind of run netting more mainstream composers a textbook chapter. Really. The only reason that reads as hyperbolic now is because our subject is still active. Perceived permanence always lightens the scales.
Memoria Vestusta III: Saturnian Poetry is a prime example why we’re going to miss these guys when they’re gone. Despite their well-earned title of “challenging,” Blut Aus Nord craft supremely listenable black metal albums, keying in on prime traits generally attractive to metalheads. One of those traits is right up front: Saturnian Poetry follows in the spirit of the series’ second entry, 2009’s Dialogue With The Stars, by freeing up a really good guitar band to write really good guitar riffs. True to form, this album is a feast of textures sprouting from seeds sown by wind-swept, medieval tremolos.
That said, Saturnian Poetry’s patience is perhaps its greatest virtue. Some albums use a manipulative smash-cut momentum, shoving you through a fake journey where you feel every push. Those albums fall apart when interrogated by silence because there isn’t any logic to supply a binding. Saturnian Poetry, though, runs like clockwork. Great care is given to balancing tension and release, surprises and resolutions, and letting those musical elements work in the background so they don’t obscure or interrupt the glorious flow of time.
And time is on Saturnian Poetry’s side. Because of its fastidious construction that ticks the boxes of what we’ve internalized a metal album to be, and Blut Aus Nord’s continued commitment to eschew the novel and be Blut Aus Nord no matter the voice, Saturnian Poetry will still sound rich long after its newness fades. So, it might not be your favorite album this year, but it has a chance to be next year. Or the year after. Or the year after that. Or even when Blut Aus Nord come to an end, and their greatest albums turn out to be the ones we already have. –Ian [LISTEN]