Ever since the release of 2003’s The Work Which Transforms God, French black metal pioneers Blut Aus Nord took the constrictions of the standard black metal envelope, stretched them out to ridiculous lengths and dimensions, and repackaged them to the point where you only vaguely remember there being an envelope in front of you. In other words, Blut Aus Nord, along with fellow Frenchmen Deathspell Omega, redefined black metal as we know it, incorporating new ideas and foreign (for metal) concepts to breathe new life into a stagnant genre. By doing so, they inspired many new acts to branch out and create their own brand of blackened weirdness. One such act, Illinois/Oregon duo Ævangelist, have been making headway in recent years. So you would think that a split EP where the masters and the students apply their wares, such as the case of today’s Codex Obscura Nomine, would make for a compelling concoction, yes?
One thing that can be said about Blut Aus Nord is that their creativity is admirable, and when they fire on all cylinders, they make incredible dark magick. Sadly, another thing that can be said is the quality of their output in recent years has been spotty as hell. Their four tracks (out of five) harken back to the TWWTG days in terms of slumbering feel, deliberate pacing, and eerie soundscapes, but only opening track “Evanescent Hallucinations” reels you in with anything remotely resembling a hook. What made Blut Aus Nord a compelling listen in the past was the creative guitar-work of Vindsval, whose mastery of undulating modular bends and creative melodies grips and holds you in the music’s talon-like grip. The only hooks here belong to the programmed drums, and that’s a huge problem, especially when the music screams less “Our Blessed Frozen Cells” and more like the horrific memories of Dr. Dre‘s re-imagining of David Bowie‘s “Fame” (the middle of “The Parallel Echöes”), or worse, making me feel like grabbing glowsticks and raving (“Infra-Voices Ensemble”) [There is no rave in the void. – Steel Grimess].
On the flip side, we have Ævangelist‘s sole song, the 22-minute closer “Threshold of the Miraculous.” The duo have been making a name for themselves in recent years, and it’s not hard to hear why. While the majority of the song is blistering black metal, you have nods of Blut Aus Nord weirdness, eerie spoken-word passages, some hellacious screaming and howling by vocalist Ascaris, and moments of regal majesty towards the song’s end. Granted, I’ll admit right now that this is my first experience with Ævangelist, and I will also say that I was expecting to have just a few bites and not a full-course meal, but they impressed me enough to check out their back catalog.
The mix on Ævangelist‘s side could use some help, as the drum machine sounded tinny, and the guitars felt like they were taking a back seat, whereas Blut Aus Nord‘s production was drum-machine-heavy with overly loud guitars. Even with a grittier, more guitar-heavy production, I would have a hard time recommending this split, as the only song I enjoyed on here, and thus kept coming back to, was Ævangelist‘s. While I’m always down for finding new bands and sounds, in this case it’s almost a wake-up that Blut Aus Nord‘s formula for weirdness is growing stale. That, and they’re (he’s?) in desperate need of some hooks. When Vindsval’s motivated, he definitely creates some incredible magick, and can do so again.
So we have a conundrum. On one hand, we have an American band who, like Imperial Triumphant before them, has taken their influences and gone absolutely apeshit wild with them, and four “meh” tracks from one of their biggest influences. I’m eager and excited to see where Ævangelist go next, but worried about Blut Aus Nord‘s trajectory. Then again, Vindsval and company have surprised us many, many times before.
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: v1 mp3
Label: Debemur Morti Productions
Websites: blutausnord.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/blutausnord.official
aevangelist.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/aevangelist.official
Release Dates: EU: 2016.06.17 | NA: 06.24.2016