When news came out that blackened French masters Blut Aus Nord would be unleashing not one, not two, but a full trilogy of albums within a short time span, the skeptics immediately started crying foul that they couldn’t possibly have that much staggering material ready. That crowd was quickly silenced by the quality of 777 entries Sect(s) and The Desanctification, both of which were lauded by fans and critics alike, and anticipation for the finale grew with each passing week (and month). With the first two representing a kind of different perspective on the same black Godfleshian intensity, many expected a third twist on the theme. But Vindsval and company have not built their legacy on providing what people expect, and Cosmosophy is far more than just a different angle on what 777 has meant to this point. It embraces its predecessors while also rejecting much of what they stood for, and in doing so fashions a freshness that no one was expecting.
What we did expect was for Cosmosophy to give the 777 saga an appropriately classy ending, and it does just that. What we didn’t expect was the left turn that this album represents. Sure, there is still plenty of the band’s cavernous atmosphere, twisted riffs, signature leads, and deep programmed drums, but in many ways this is not the Blut Aus Nord you’ve come to expect. First off, Cosmosophy is not really a black metal album, not even in the industrial sense of the past. There are no blast beats; the harsh vocals appear very sparingly; and a sense of speed is nonexistent. Instead, this is a combination of industrial, goth (with clean vocals, gasp), and an evocative doom sensibility that still remains one-hundred-and-ten-percent Blut Aus Nord in its overall feel. It takes a band with such a distinctive, well-executed sound to achieve this, but also a band that is obsessed with meticulous detail, as they undoubtedly are.
In its own twisted way, Cosmosophy is simultaneously a hybrid and deconstruction of everything Blut Aus Nord has done. Threads of the other two 777 entries can be heard in certain melodies and the overall depth, but as mentioned, this is very much not a black metal album as those were. There is also an expansion of some of the less soul-devouring moments of The Work Which Transforms God (such as “Procession of Dead Clowns”) and many of the band’s other exercises in exploring minimalism. But the most striking call back is to the brilliant melodies exhibited on the Memoria Vetusta albums, spread out here in a way that may take many listens to truly appreciate the full impact. Opener “Epitome XIV” exemplifies this quality of the album, seeming like a soft intro before it grows over nearly nine minutes into a gorgeous, moving piece, with the understated lead at about 6:10 truly keying the listener in.
This subtlety, this learning curve, is what may make Cosmosophy less immediate for many of the band’s long time fans —particularly those that love the malevolent side. It doesn’t hit you with an industrial hammer like Sect(s) did, or the pure dance floor insanity of Desanctification, and as such may initially seem like the softer, un-black-metal album that followed two killer installments in a trilogy. But more and more spins will reveal the depth of songcraft created here, showing that this is far more than just “the album where they sing.” Throughout their career, Blut Aus Nord has deftly walked the line between relying on their immersive moods and exhibiting their compositional prowess, and Cosmosophy flaunts the latter even if it appears to just be leaning on the former. Most of these five lengthy tracks exhibit layer upon layer of organic growth, perhaps none better than the complex “Epitome XVI,” which grows from its goth-wave origins into some of the album’s only real blackened and dissonant tones (and the big release at 8:40 is pure bliss). Only “Epitome XV,” with its odd moments of spoken word, and finale “Epitome XVIII” lack any kind of self evolution, but the former still finds plenty of time to be haunting and the latter is entrancing in its cyclical repetition.
Blut Aus Nord has found a way to take their wide range of hues and create something that is both very new and yet instantly recognizable. It’s doubly surprising that they chose the finale of a trilogy to introduce these new themes, but fitting in that, as different as Cosmosophy seems at times, it still feels like it belongs with the previous two installments. To fans it will likely be the least immediate of the three 777 parts, but due to its atmospheric and compositional depth, it may actually have the longest shelf-life. Either way, it’s a gorgeous and rewarding, if imperfect, conclusion to what has been a gutsy cycle. It’s a message from a shadow world, a reflection off a hazy mirror, or a memory distorted by dreams. Most of all, it’s a fresh album that might just create more questions than it answers and, in doing so, foster even more excitement and anticipation about where this groundbreaking act will go in the future.