In more than two decades of occupying some of the darkest corners of the underground, Blut Aus Nord has become one of metal’s most consistent artists. The French shape-shifting black metal outfit has traveled a remarkable distance from their auspiciously grim lo-fi beginnings with 1995′s Ultima Thulee, eventually growing into a formidable force of atmospheric black metal on 2003′s acclaimed The Work That Transforms God. And with the 777 series—2011′s Sects and The Desanctification, and 2012′s Cosmosophy—sinister architect Vindisval took their music into a more melodic and eclectic direction, taking on everything from Godflesh-style industrial metal to Deftones-like atmospherics, all while injecting their own unique take on songwriting and eerie aesthetics.
The sheer vision and audacity behind Blut Aus Nord’s artistic changes of direction are what make them consistently interesting to follow, but the strength of the songs themselves is why they endure. On their latest, Deus Salutis Meae, Blut Aus Nord once again take a sharp pivot from their previous set, 2014′s more conventional black metal Memoria Vetusta III: Saturnian Poetry (which is still not necessarily conventional per se), back into a hellish blackened industrial sound that could only be released as close to Halloween as possible. Yet while the aesthetics themselves are fascinatingly horrific, the tracks themselves find Vindisval pushing himself into more breathtaking avant garde territory.
Where the 777 series presented Blut Aus Nord at their most accessible, Deus Salutis Meae is one of their most complex and strange creations. On a track like “Apostasis,” there are few easy hooks to grab hold of, and few melodic centers of gravity to have it make any kind of sense. Rather, this is the demonic spirit of black metal unleashed into a cacophonous hellgaze. A lot of what’s happening doesn’t even fully register on first listen—it’s sensory overload in the most thrilling and terrifying of ways. Yet there’s a balance between Blut Aus Nord’s menacing assault and their more darkly ambient sounds. “Abisme,” for instance, is a more measured dirge worthy of Justin Broadrick’s anthemic moments, albeit in a brief running time. Likewise, there’s a dissonance to “Impius” whose effects and moments of atonality make it far more terrifying than the average blast-beater, while “Chorea Macchabeorum” is glorious in its balance of industrial stomp and spooky synths. When Vindisval delves into the depths of his most malevolent tendencies, the results are breathtaking in their acts of horror, yet Blut Aus Nord have likewise proven to be equally capable of something majestic.
It’s been a long time since Blut Aus Nord have released something as simple as a straightforward black metal album, and even their back-to-basics releases are a good distance from basic. Yet it’s with releases like Deus Salutis Meae that Vindisval proves why he remains one of metal’s most consistently captivating artists. The modus operandi is always changing, and the sound is constantly in flux. This enigmatic French musician is certainly capable of doing something accessible, even pretty, and it’s not unlikely he’ll return to such an approach in the future. But when he harnesses the kind of unholy venom that seeps into every corner of albums like this, he creates something awe inspiring.