Having a twenty-five year long career is an achievement in itself, yet crafting works that can stand as a whole and as a part of each other is another level of talent that many try their hardest to reach, and many fail to achieve. France’s Blut Aus Nord find no problems with reinventing their sound and creating compositions that ring true for their approach yet carry threads of different texture throughout. The Memoria Vetusta trilogy, the 777 trilogy, the three part EP series of What Once Was...Liber, plus many other full-lengths and splits - each has their own distinct tones and ideas contained in their walls of sound and somehow cohesion is woven through all to give the music a definitive Blut Aus Nord aura.
This approach endures on Hallucinogen, now their thirteenth full-length record, which seemingly dispenses of most “black metal” sounds to create a new world, one of growth and of warmth. This is black metal at its most radiant - there are new paths of brightness to be found during Hallucinogen and opening track “Nomos Nebuleam” pulses with that light. Guitars are lifted into the realms of the heavens while keyboards push the sound into new dimensions and tread a path of otherworldly wonder. Vindsval’s vocals are restrained here, and through much of the album take a step back, and melodies instead create a new voice. Synthesised choral excerpts make up many of the vocal patterns on Hallucinogen and when Vindsval brings a different tone to the track is where the songs break into the darkness that Blut Aus Nord have long held deep in their hearts.
Soaring guitars during “Nebeleste” colour the track with incandescence and the vocals again sit slightly further back in the mix, adding atmosphere where needed and allowing the song to fulfill its progression towards the stunning end-point. The song is beautiful, at times, giving life to ideas that have long been fermenting in the minds of the beings behind the project. Sharing similar tones and emotions to the Memoria Vetusta records cannot be a coincidence (one gets the feeling that everything Blut Aus Nord does is on purpose, is thought through and is executed with precision) and where that series and Hallucinogen line up is in the obscure meditative state it induces with the phrasing of the guitars, albeit in a somewhat different way, and the melodic choral lines that inject a disorientating ecclesiastical tone to the music.
For Blut Aus Nord those themes pour forth from kaleidoscopic guitar riffs and colourful keyboards that create glittering melodies and the opening section of “Mahagma” is a beautiful rendering of what black metal can be in 2019. Vibrant, glowing guitar work cascades into view before the deep, choral voices push for sorrow - the emotional response experienced here is overwhelming and in the hands of such masters, devastating. Sadness has coloured Blut Aus Nord’s world before but this is a new step - this seems purposeful and created in order to elicit new feedback. The heightened tension of previous works have aimed to annihilate, to destroy, to be wilfully abstract, yet Hallucinogen eschews that need and instead plays with progressiveness and the power of growth - both as people and as a project.
Blut Aus Nord have nothing to prove in the black metal climate of 2019, they’ve done that ten times over in the past, and now they can offer more honest reflections of their selves in their music. Hallucinogen certainly plays into that mindset with “Haallucinählia” forgoing sorrow for something much brighter in structure and perhaps even hopeful in its journey through small psychedelic stages. It’s strange, that a record featuring nods to hallucinogens through its artwork and title doesn’t seem all that psychedelic in its output, rather it takes its time in arranging the pieces into more solid forms. There are moments where the breakthrough feels as though it is close, where the music builds to a point that you expect something truly bizarre to happen, yet Blut Aus Nord show some restraint and instead show subtle hints at what could lie behind that door - that expanding the consciousness through microdoses will improve creativity, energy, spirituality…with Hallucinogen it seems that everything is possible.
9.0 / 10
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