I don’t know, man. There must be something in the water over in France that makes everyone a black metal prodigy. Since their inception in 1994, and despite the new waves of pioneering creative vision from the likes of Peste Noire, Alcest and Deathspell Omega, Blut Aus Nord have placed themselves firmly at the forefront of black metal’s artistic vanguard. Following a tremendous split LP with P.H.O.B.O.S, as well as the Debemur MoRTi EP earlier this year, Memoria Vetusta III: Saturnian Poetry marks their third release of 2014, the third entry in the Memoria Vetusta ‘saga’, and their eleventh studio album overall. The lads sure keep themselves busy.
Out of all the progressive themes and creative strides that Blut Aus Nord have brought to black metal over the years, their Memoria Vetusta (literally translating to ‘The Old Memory’) albums have always been firmly rooted in the genre’s heritage, and main songwriter Vindsval‘s appreciation for the seminal Scandinavian sound. We’re not talking church burnings or wimpy dudes in corpse paint, but the arcane roots of paganism, cosmology, spirituality and nature. But this is by no means a standard approach to black metal (I mean, come on, it’s Blut Aus Nord: they don’t even know what ‘standard’ means); they have managed to play with the more traditional characteristics and structures of black metal, while still leaving their own stylistic imprint, injecting a more literary, romantic feel into the mix with a larger emphasis on melody and harmony blooming from their second-wave roots.
Despite the overwhelming technical and artistic prowess present on the album, Saturnian Poetry semms to be the least focused of all of the Memoria Vetusta records. While it retains the dynamism ever-present in past Blut Aus Nord records, it’s far less structured and feels directionless and almost arrogant. The album is to second-wave black metal what Steven Wilson‘s The Raven That Refused To Sing is to prog rock (albeit less of a shameful parody of itself). The whole ‘saga’ acts as an exploration of Vindsval and Thorn‘s formative musical roots, and while their passion for that style is truly captivating at some points (like ‘Paein’ and ‘Metaphor of the Moon’), it’s difficult to absorb its dense, indulgent nature. This third entry to the series feels too personal, more inward and alienating, losing a lot of the compelling creative ambition that Blut Aus Nord have been revered for; it very much feels like a record written by the band, for the band.
Despite these problems, Saturnian Poetry shows that even without all the unconventional influences that have brought the band acclaim, Blut Aus Nord haven’t lost their touch in their almost twenty-year run as a band, and can still really put together a full-bodied artistic effort with just the rudimentary tools of black metal. Although for those who were introduced to the band through their pioneering, genre-defining works, Saturnian Poetry will be an unexpected and confusing addition to their discography, it still contains unmistakeable aesthetic and thematic touches that place Blut Aus Nord far beyond your average second-wave copyist.