Just in time for Halloween: what could be spookier than an extremely disappointing album from a typically vital and engrossing artist? Blut Aus Nord’s Deus Salutis Meæ again trudges into the bleak blackened industrial abyss in which sole member Vindsval has frequently been so successful, but feels flailingly slight and almost entirely enervated. Although its sound can be traced most directly back to the utterly classic Work Which Transforms God, in its structure and brevity, Deus most closely resembles Odinist. It is a better album than Odinist, but not by very much, and as such rounds out the very bottom of the Blut Aus Nord discography.
To be perfectly clear, I have no qualms with the way in which Vindsval has lately been pursuing parallel tracks with Blut Aus Nord – the densely melodic and atmospheric Memoria Vetusta series or the more modernist industrial 777 trilogy on the one hand, and the darker, lumbering blackness of the What Once Was series. In fact, this approach has likely sharpened the best attributes of each separate musical silo. And thus, the problem with Deus is not with the style itself, but that virtually nothing new is being done with it. These songs lurch and heave and twist in a familiarly woozy way, but they bog themselves down with the pacing of tedious and poorly executed doom and consistently feel much longer than they are.
By contrast, what has made Vindsval’s darkest, densest compositions over the years so successful is their combination of furious black metal intensity with a harrowing sense of almost weightless, unmoored atmosphere. The Work Which Transforms God, the What Once Was series, the supremely underappreciated MoRT, and the newly appended chapters of the reissue of The Mystical Beast of Rebellion all telegraphed a slowly unfolding dread and wonder, taking their time to strike a particular tone and then really explore all of its shades. Deus feels rushed, rudderless, almost flippant.
The proper album opener “Chorea Macchabeorum” spends a bit too much of its time in straightforward Godflesh mode, and while the main riff in “Impius” is a satisfyingly fleeting shadow of a thing, the song can’t sustain its core wooziness and more or less stutters to an awkward finish. Throughout the album, Vindsval brings a much wider array of vocal noises to bear on these glacially spasmatic songs, but too many of these choices are truly ill-considered. The nasal, keening stabs on “Impius” are risible rather than unsettling, the left-panned animal noises in “Métanoïa” are quite obnoxious, and the squeaking, helium bends in “Revelatio” are just complete trash.
Here’s a shorter version of the above: this album is almost always boring and quite frequently annoying. Although there are occasional flashes of brilliance (e.g., the nicely time-skewing riff in the mid-section of “Ex Tenebrae Lucis” or the fairly bruising doom riff of “Abisme”), there is quite literally nothing here which has not been done significantly better at multiple points in the BAN catalog. Perhaps the best we can hope is that, like Odinist after the mesmerizing triumph of MoRT, Deus Salutis Meæ will help clear Vindsval’s head after the astonishing grandeur of Memoria Vetusta III and pave the way for a yet-to-be-dreamed trove of grim delights.
Dude, salute that.