We here at Metal Injection have enjoyed a longtime love affair with the French metal scene. Rob & the boys are all about Gorod and Gojiiiraaaaaa,and have given them lots of love on this site (see here, here, and here). Those bands are undeniably rad, but they call me Grim Kim for a reason – allow me to introduce you to one of my favorite bands, (French or otherwise) – BLUT AUS NORD.
Norway, Sweden, Finland, Eastern Europe and South America have long been the dark Meccas of black metal, but the USA, Japan, and France in particular are steadily creeping up to stake their claims for global supremacy. Simply put, French black metal rules. I've been jocking Deathspell Omega, Hell Militia, Blut Aus Nord, Peste Noire, and the Black Legions since I was just a little tyke with a Hellhammer backpatch. Consistently underrated and until recent times, more or less ignored by the majority of American metalheads, the French scene has given rise to some of the most challenging, forward-thinking, ass-kicking black metal of the past decade, and shows no signs of slowing down.
Encompassing the primitive basement incantations of Les Légions Noires (Belketre, Mutiilation, Moëvöt, Vlad Tepes, and countless side projects), the gently metallic shoegaze of Alcest and Les Discrets, the experimental mindfuckery of Deathspell Omega and Glorior Belli, the cold fusion of Amesoeurs, the vicious Satanic slaughter of Hell Militia, Antaeus, Merrimack, and Arkhon Infaustus, and the skewed, melodically-informed perspectives of Peste Noire, Celestia and Spektr, it's easy to see (and hear) why French black metal is a force to be reckoned with. Its domination continues with Candlelight Records' release of Blut Aus Nord's latest opus, Memoria Vetusta II – Dialogue With the Stars, an album that had has my head spinning for the past month and will undoubtedly top many a year-end list.
Blut Aus Nord fall somewhere in the middle of the aforementioned acts. No two B.A.N. albums sound the same, from the somber ambient-laced paens of Ultima Thulee and haunting darkness of Memoria Vetusta I: Fathers of the Icy Age (the prequel to the new album) to the lurching chords and jagged melodies of their later works (The Work Which Transforms God, MoRT). Last year's Odinist saw a return to more traditionl black metal song structures, but as always, saw the band stretching the boundaries of the genre. Blut Aus Nord have always been all about atmosphere – sometimes dense and suffocating, sometimes deceptively ethereal, but always deeply affecting. On Memoria Vetusta II – Dialogue With the Stars, they recaptured and then refined the icy cold majesty and subtly menacing tones of their earlier masterpieces, juxtaposing them with harsh black metal malevolence and dissonant harmonies. Several passages are nothing short of beautiful – see the opening track and the beginning of "Translucent Body Of Air (Sutta Anapanasati)." Still, Blut Aus Nord never stray too far from their black metal roots; the bloodthirsty elegance of "The Cosmic Echoes Of Non-Matter (Immaterial Voices Of The Fathers) is proof enough of that.
Blut Aus Nord have outdone themselves once again, and cemented their status as one of the forerunners of modern black metal. It's hard to imagine where they could possibly go next, but I for one can't wait to find out.