Monday, October 07, 2019

Blut Aus Nord - Hallucinogen

Origin: France
Label: Debemur Morti Productions
Release: September 20th, 2019


New material from diverse bands is always exciting news to listeners, with Blut Aus Nord being a grand example of this category and a project with hefty history and a fairly hefty discography on their backs. Mainman Vindsval is a unique musician who has never compromised, and his work is the proof for that. Throughout the years, I have praised but also discarded BAN’s albums without ever skipping a single release, since I consider this one of the biggest names to be constantly into someone’s radar.

This decade has seen no less than six full lengths by Blut Aus Nord, and they have left a bittersweet taste on me, as I am not the biggest fan of the 777 trilogy, I could not fully appreciate their previous album Deus Salutis Meæ in 2017, yet I think Saturnian Poetry from 2014 is their richest record and also one of the best black metal albums of the 10s. 

The band’s new album Hallucinogen came as a surprise to me, ever since I saw one new version of their logo in bubbly, floating letters a la Black Sabbath, or more closely like Electric Wizard. The artwork’s vivid colors give cunning looks to some darker Infected Mushroom even, with the concept being quite straightforward about hallucinogens and psychedelics, something that Blut Aus Nord haven’t expressed so far through their musical content (worry not about their personal lives). 

By slowly stepping into the compositions, an aural execution of these very subjects is apparent and pops out of mainly colorful guitar melodies, chanting vocals and this dizzying atmosphere. The band employs a combination of their own trademark sound with psychedelic elements, or at least tries to balance between its own identity and the urge not to completely be dragged towards that direction. Some sparse shrieked vocals are now the only characteristic that connects Blut Aus Nord to their old black metal self.

The first track “Nomos Nebuleam” was also released prior to the record and intrigued me, because of this new turn in the band’s music but also because I seemed to sincerely enjoy the tune. There are several moments of awesome guitar lines in it, most probably featuring a couple of the best riffs in the whole record. After listening to Hallucinogen till the end, the realization is that this track is indeed the best among a collection of sub-optimal pieces. After the second track “Nebeleste”, the attention starts to wear off and Hallucinogen becomes repetitive, circling around the same pattern of lively melodies, solos and cleaner ambient parts.

For instance, I could not grasp on how a track like “Mahagma”, a basic and unoriginal post-black metal piece, would end up in a Blut Aus Nord record. Only the closing part of that song saves itself a bit, but one minute is not enough. Tracks “Sybelius” and “Anthosmos” are also indifferent, with a few enjoyable parts but mostly containing ideas same as “Nomos Nebuleam”, but inferior. Hallucinogen is an album that can be felt completely, even from one single track, no matter which one you pick. 

 “Haallucinählia” is another take-home track as the first two, which features beautiful and slightly filthier riffs, as well as the calm ambiance that is used around. However, this resemblance between tracks doesn’t work on its favor, when you listen to the clean guitar part of this one and the ending of “Anthosmos”, can you really tell the difference?

I can see this record going places, and I expect it to be successful outside the boundaries of the underground. Its pleasant sound and psychedelic nature are a tempting fruit, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they acquire new audience from it. Personally, Hallucinogen is a rather direct record that gives everything to the listener right away with its transparency, and that makes me feel a bit frustrated, coming from a notoriously enigmatic band like Blut Aus Nord. Depending on what you see as success, you can weight this album the way you want.

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