(In this post Andy Synn reviews the special EP recorded by Blut Aus Nord to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the Debemur Morti label.)
At least in the majority of the metal media, Black Metal rarely gets its due in terms of its progressive side and forward-thinking ambition. Whereas “Progressive Death Metal” comes in multiple forms and guises, and the term “Progressive Metal” has been bastardised to seemingly refer solely to bands who deal in basic polyrhythms and melodramatic caterwauling, the term “Progressive Black Metal” still doesn’t seem to carry the same weight or cultural currency.
Some of that is due to the perception of the genre – by many, but nowhere near by all – as being firmly rooted in its own past and firmly captivated by its own legend. There’s some truth to that, as there are (and always will be) bands still carrying the ebon flame of those early years and keeping the original spirit of the genre alive. Yet although they have their place (something I’m not denying), to judge the entire genre by those standards would be a major mistake.
Because, to my mind at least, few sub-genres of metal can claim the scope of style and sound that Black Metal does these days. Elements of its influence have infiltrated numerous sub-genres, in often surprising ways, while, at the same time, its most artistic adherents have mixed and melded influences from outside its strict confines into their own strange, alchemical works, forging new and unusual weapons of war with the black flame of their own darkest emotions.
And chief amongst these are Blut Aus Nord.
For years now the band have been using Black Metal as a tool to explore their own darkest visions and arcane whims. From the bleak and frozen atmospherics of Ultima Thulée, to the pan-dimensional dissonance of The Work Which Transforms God, to the glorious experimentation of the 777 trilogy, they have never been afraid to twist and contort the limits of their sound – not so much shattering the boundaries of the genre, as reworking and reshaping them into new, previously unimaginable forms.
Debemur MoRTi is a particularly unusual (and rather notable) release from the band, commissioned to commemorate the 100th release from the label of the same name, offering up three exclusive tracks of Blut Aus Nord’s signature sonic sorcery.
The first of these, “Tetraktys”, erupts into pustulent life right from the moment the listener clicks play, dragging them into a hellish abyss of angular industrial drumming, eerie demonic dissonance, and vertigo-inducing riffs that dance on the very edge of madness.
Guitars clash and clamour in agonistic contortions, while the cold, clinically dehumanised drums beat out a merciless pattern of perverse percussive precision. The whole song seems to claw and strain at its bonds, straightjacketed into fragile submission by subtle touches of cruel melody and an unceasing electro-shock pulse of pure, barely restrained lunacy.
The black cascade of “Lighteater” offers no respite from this downward spiral, merely widening the sonic scope of the band’s twisted thaumaturgy to include ever darker layers of madness and melody, where bleak, predatory visions shine and shimmer in the fractured silence and chaos, and rough, gnarled vocals crawl and slither their way across a musical landscape of broken glass and shattered bones. Harrowing, bestial riffs writhe and pound with ugly power, bleeding dissonance and disharmony from every wound, while strange, unsettling melodies scythe and suture, sowing discordant beauty with every corrupted note. Patient and unrelenting, it simply devours.
The third and final track is a cover of now-defunct British industro-metallers Pitchshifter, the French arch-antagonists putting their own decayed and decadent spin on the song “Bastardiser”. With consummate ease they take the original – itself something of a rarity – and re-interpret and reconstruct it as something darker and more ominous, maintaining the machine-like intensity of every riff and drum beat, but oiling the mechanism in black blood and crimson shadow… transforming it into something cripplingly intense and claustrophobic which bleeds pure malevolence.
What a strange, nightmarish little experiment this EP is. Yet oddly beautiful in its own way. A fitting tribute both to the label and to its creators. Long may they reign.
Debemur MoRTi is the label’s 100th release and commemorates its 10th anniversary. It can be ordered via the following links; stream the music below.