Yer Metal is Olde: Blut Aus Nord – The Work Which Transforms God

Before we dive headfirst into today’s induction, I want to address the impressively large, off-salmon-colored pachyderm that’s currently occupying a large space in the corner of the room. Black metal, especially in the late nineties and early 2000s, wasn’t all that terrifying, despite what their chief songwriters would have you believe. Behind all the church arsons, bullshit posturing, literal back-stabbing, racism, homophobia, xenophobia, and murder, the music didn’t even come close to attaining a faint whiff of what they were trying to achieve aesthetically, and it even got to the point where their inspirations in Bathory, Celtic Frost, and Venom were either distancing themselves from this scene, or openly mocking their spiritual and musical descendants. Envelopes weren’t being pushed, torn, lit aflame, or even opened and read at this point, kiddos. So thank fuck for the mysterious French trio Blut Aus Nord and their fourth head-trip of an album, The Work Which Transforms God, for transforming everything.

Right from the get-go, you notice that things don’t exactly begin like most standard cut-and-paste black metal albums do. No whooshing winds, no gently strummed acoustic guitars, no badly-produced treble-set-to-10 tremolo-picked zaniness… rather, things slowly proceed in a matter not unlike a Godflesh album. Subtle feedback and a cold, uncomfortable ambiance signal that something’s not right here, and “The Choir of the Dead” proves that theory correct, with swirling guitars, blasting drums, and vicious high-pitched screams by guitarist and chief songwriter Vindsval. Just as unsettling, out of nowhere, the band drops into a Godflesh-meets-Swans groove about halfway in without once sacrificing a single speck of their blackened energy.

And if it’s just blackened energy you want, The Work Which Transforms God has that in spades. “Axis” does get weird towards the middle, but the first minute or so will blast your head clean off without hesitation. “The Supreme Aspect” and “The Howling of God” both sound like a swarm of angry bees, fresh from being agitated by a bladeless blender.1 Blut Aus Nord didn’t forget their blackened roots when they attempted to transform God.

But they honestly sound better when they get all atmospheric and weird on us. Nowhere is this more evident than on TTWTG’s two most iconic tracks, “Our Blessed Frozen Cells” and “Procession of the Dead Clowns.” The former moves at a crawl, lurching ever-so-slowly forward before coming to a complete stop to allow some space effects and ambient atmospherics to kick in, before Vindsval hits us with one of the most iconic and beautiful melodies that he’s written to date, carrying us majestically to the song’s end. “Procession of the Dead Clowns,” while not deviating too far from that same formula, has its own memorable riff and melodies that repeat throughout the song’s almost-ten minutes, but not once does the song feel boring or trite. Rather, the effect remains trance-inducing and reflective, a perfect send-off to a mindblowing, genre-redefining album.

Blut Aus Nord, over the last few decades, would morph and warp their sound to their whims, keeping their listeners and themselves on their toes, but in doing so, you can still point out little bits of their trademark sound (especially in some of Vindsval’s playing) and say “Yep, that’s Blut Aus Nord.” You can hear their influence in bands such as Darkspace and even countrymates The Great Old Ones, but no one’s been able to replicate the ability to fuck with one’s psyche quite like The Work Which Transforms God did back in 2003, and for that alone, it deserves its spot in the Hallowed Halls of the Olde. Welcome, guys. This is long overdue.

Show 1 footnote

  1. I do not recommend blending bees. They’re important to our planet’s ecosystem, and it’s mean to the bees. Besides, do you want to anger the bees? I do not want to anger the bees. Do not anger the bees. This has been your Grymm TED Talk.
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