originally written by Jim Brandon
We have too few enigmas these days, and all our gods are dead. If you seek true transcendence in the realm of black metal, I can guarantee you won’t fucking find it amongst Brooklyn’s unwashed pot-smoking hipster scene. Fuck that, and fuck you. Once again, it’s in hills of France that the most innovative and frighteningly consistent form of white-hot hatred can be found, specifically in the embrace of the iconic Blut Aus Nord. Aside from two exceptions — the genuinely bizarre MoRT, and the rather “normal” Odinist — this faceless entity has released a slew of tremendously groundbreaking albums since 1995, reinventing itself along the way in astonishing fashion. The longtime trio is set to cut loose three (!) connected full-lengths throughout the course of 2011, with 777-Sect(s) being the first in the bunch, and their capacity for creativity actually appears to be increasing as time goes on.
What has surprised me the most about the tenacity of this act is how they can alter their approach so often from disc to disc, yet obviously still sound like the same band. From one release to the other, they take dissonance, beautiful acoustics, and raw aggression and morph them all into new shapes, and Sect(s) takes pages out of The Work Which Transforms God and adds simplicity, grace, and vibrant repetition to an already impressive palette. For the first time, all six of the “Epitome” tracks sound like a few guys jamming tunes together in a room, and immediately sets this album apart from its predecessors without abandoning the signature sound. Granted, the ethereal qualities they possess are still firmly intact, but there’s a solidity that arises as each song flows into the next that is new.
Right out of the gate, “Epitome 1” sinuously cascades into raucous blasts and sharp tremolo, aggressively leaving an immediate mark as Vindsval’s raspy trademark screams float through the haze of tense guitar. Crisply produced as to enhance the nuances BAN execute so excellently, everything is blended together and simultaneously amplified to provide a jarring listening experience when the tempos begin to rage. Their industrial side is explored once more but with much less emphasis on the Godflesh-influenced dementia of TWWTG, again showing the band putting a different spin on their music, while also boldy showing classic black metal mannerisms as well. With the second track, they show a deft understanding of atmospheric dread, like a death in broad daylight, while Vindsval snarls and whispers just beneath the surface as his voice mixes inseparably with the expanse of keys, concluding with lush power chords and stauch heft.
The fact that each tune sounds very different yet wholly cohesive in the overall scheme is testament to their expertise in arrangement and flow, giving us variety without disjointed assembly. What took me off guard was the terrific “Epitome III” and its strange, jangly drawl, blasting into view with almost Glorior Belli-sounding twanging riffs on top of furious percussive barrage. Although frequently speedy, the momentum never reaches nor maintains the nearly grindcore speed of select earlier tunes in their catalogue, instead concentrating on substantial progressions and surprisingly chunky riffs as found on the nearly twelve-minute fourth “Epitome” track. It is during this monstrous song that BAN reaches into their entire bag of formidable tricks, unearthing hellish riffs during the acceleration, and then slowing down to a murderously dissonant crawl. “Epitome V” feels like falling down a well with no bottom, ripe with cavernous riffs and alternating blasting sections, pushing their discord fully into the red by pummeling and pulling their strings for all they’re worth.
From a musicianship standpoint, the collective membership has improved greatly since the release of Ultima Thulee, and as a result, the band has stretched their boundaries and abilities far beyond their early days, and it shows brightly in their songwriting. The drumming is also incredible, and all those percussive embellishments are exceptional and often quite complex, complimented greatly by slyly intricate bass guitar and broad keys as found on the beautiful and tersely melodic sixth and closing “Epitome”. I’m left worn out, yet completely wired, and the replay value is sky high.
Right now, at this moment, Blut Aus Nord is the greatest black metal band on the planet, and they wear the supreme crown of the French black metal scene above even Deathspell Omega. 777-Sect(s) is their easiest-to-decipher album, and also their most diverse to date. It’s starting to get a little bit scary how seemingly indestructible these artists have become, because there isn’t a single bad thing I can say about the quality of this particular album, especially since it’s such a departure from the Memoria Vetusta II disc from 2009. The tendency of chameleons is to deceive and blend while maintaining their integrity, and it appears this reptilian entity will not cease to enthrall when they release 777-The Desanctification and 777-Cosmosophy later in the year. It’s soothing to know the black is never far, and looks like it’s not leaving anytime soon.