originally written by Chris McDonald
The Mystical Beast of Rebellion has inexplicably become the “black sheep” of Blut Aus Nord’s long-running and highly celebrated catalogue. Resting between the raw, more traditional black metal explored on the band’s first two records and the experimental direction they took beginning on The Work Which Transforms God, you’d be hard pressed to even know this album exists judging by the almost total lack of attention it receives from many of the project’s supporters. But those familiar with this album should already be well aware of its innovation and quality; as its place in Blut Aus Nord’s historical timeline would suggest, The Mystical Beast of Rebellionrepresents an intriguing crossroads between the epic black metal that preceded it and the bizarre forays into industrial-tinged madness that followed its release.
The tone of The Mystical Beast of Rebellion is markedly more depressive and emotional than any of the band’s work prior to Memoria Vetusta II. The riffs are simplistic, expansive, and ominous, with straightforward tempos and lengthy repetitive sections that pay homage to traditional black metal standards while still maintaining the distinct BAN feel. While the compositions are more conventional than future releases in the band’s “second era,” the looming progression to the style of The Work Which Transforms God is still very apparent in this material. There’s next to nothing in the way of “stand-out” tracks or riffs, just walls of disturbing sound that somehow stay interesting and engaging despite their mostly one-dimensional nature. A good number of the chord progressions carry the same kind of leering, dissonant feel that was more fully explored on the aforementioned album, and the mechanical drumming and eerie, inhuman vocals further add to the haunting, disturbing atmosphere that would become the project’s calling card on The Work and MoRT. At the same time, the music on The Mystical Beast carries an undeniably human undercurrent. Many of the riffs and melodies harbor a very morose and tragic vibe which feels quite distinct from anything the band has written before or since, and the sprawling, one-dimensional nature of the songwriting give these elements plenty of room and time to sink in.
It’s also important to note that this is no mere reissue. In addition to new artwork, Blut Aus Nord has taken this opportunity to creatively expand on their original recording, penning an additional three songs to the main attraction. The three-part composition that makes up the second disc largely follows in the vein of the source material in terms of tone, but manages to turn up the malevolent factor even higher thanks to the slower tempos and variety of creepy guitar leads and effects layered over the main riffs. The crawling, desolate feel of these tracks makes for a nice contrast to the denser, faster material that constitutes the original release, and it’s interesting to see how Vindsval chose to supplement and interact with the existing material over a decade after it was first put to tape.
The Mystical Beast of Rebellion may arguably be the least essential offering in Blut Aus Nord’s esteemed catalogue, but its significance in the band’s chronology and its interesting stylistic contributions means that it is still mandatory listening for BAN appreciators. While the length of the extra songs can make this release a bit of a daunting listen from front to back, this is still quality material from top to bottom, and the strange twists and turns found on the appended tracks are even more of a reason for first-time listeners to check out this strangely overlooked work from one of the most significant projects in contemporary black metal. All in all, a great effort to shine the spotlight on a dimly-lit period of Blut Aus Nord’s history.