Blut aus Nord has been the spearhead of innovation in the extreme music scene for the last fifteen years. Starting with the seminal “The Work Which Transforms God” in 2003, with its pioneering industrial/black metal fusion, every BaN’s new release has been a jack-in-the-box for both fans and music press alike. Veering between extreme industrial experimentation (the “777” trilogy) and majestic melodic black metal (the entries on “Memoria Vetusta”), Vindsval’s approach to his main project is committed to a single pursuit: breaking boundaries in the metal scene through a prolific flow of albums, EPs and collaborations released under the Blut aus Nord banner.
“Hallucinogen”, the 13th full-length offering from the French masterminds, follows the sickening, short experience of “Deus Salutis Meæ” – labeled by the band as “ending the cycle of clandestine industrialized dissonance”. So, once more, BaN’s dices have rolled to deliver us a fresh approach to the genre in this new album.
In “Hallucinogen”, BaN encroaches closer to the melodic, bigger-than-life compositions of the “Memoria Vetusta” releases. But they move closer, only to distance themselves again and put new elements in the blender. “Cosmic metal” might be an appropriate label to the music found in “Hallucinogen”.
Which recalls the aptly titled “kOsmik”, the latest full-length from the one-man project Violet Cold, released earlier this year. Violet Cold is one of the most notable projects from recent years that carry the torch set ablaze by Blut aus Nord: productiveness and genre-bending extreme sounds are its trademarks, and in its latest release, just like BaN now, Violet Cold invites us to lean back and reflect on our place in the Universe.
In this case, it’s the teacher who should take the lesson from his student: “Hallucinogen” presents, as ever, some new ideas in BaN’s repertoire: a classic metal feel that flavors the lead guitar work across the whole album; Heights-like interludes of single guitar drenched in echo effect and even a nod to Piggy (Voivod) in the riffs which open album closer “Cosma Procyris”. Unfortunately, “Hallucinogen”’s truly breathtaking moments are short and far too interspersed. “Nomos Nebuleam”, the first track, opens with a striking interplay of atmospheric guitar and blissful choirs, driving the listener into sonic rapture. But, for the remainder of it, between Eastern-tinged chord progressions and anthemic guitar passages, we plod among a cauldron of ideas that fail to capture the magic of its beginning. The start of “Mahagma” features a Deafheaven-esque hyperspeed flurry of tremolo guitars and blastbeats, which then mingles itself with Era-like choirs and a rhythm guitar line that drags along the remaining four minutes of the song.
Overall, and despite the impressive array of ideas displayed in it, “Hallucinogen” sounds contrived for most of its duration. Most of the songs’ arrangements don’t seem to glue together that well.
The final impression is that the overall result feels undercooked.
Regarding this year’s cosmic metal, we might be better served with the homonymous “kOsmik”. “Hallucinogen” feels like a transitional record for Blut aus Nord, which have proven their worth in the past and surely still have some tricks up their sleeve. However, can we say such thing about an ever-mutating beast like BaN? We shall find that out from these guys soon enough, as has been their costume.
About Blut Aus Nord
Review by Sérgio Pelado
Managing Editor: Filipe Gomes