The revered Blut Aus Nord, led by French multi-instrumentalist Vindsval, have been quietly revolutionizing black metal with every release. The band formed in 1993 while the Nordic second wave of black metal was in full swing, but unlike their peers (and quite like their avant-garde countrymen in Deathspell Omega, Vlad Tepes and Aäkon Këëtrëh), Blut Aus Nord have always bucked tradition and followed a starry path of their own devising, whether they are tunneling into chaos or offering their own gorgeously atmospheric take on conventional black metal.
Vindsval’s obsessions with cosmology and numerology permeate his compositions and steer his musical output; many of Blut Aus Nord’s major works have come in threes, from the Liber EPs (2010-12) and 777 albums (2011-12) to their latest entry, which concludes the long-simmering Memoria Vetusta trilogy. Memoria Vetusta III – Saturnian Poetry sticks to the lush melodic black metal style Vindsval dreamed up on the band’s first few releases. Its seven songs are unabashedly epic and touched with winter frost. Vindsval is a master of balancing beauty and brutality, grandiosity with grimness. The compositions on Saturnian Poetry are heavily driven by bright, almost-euphoric melodies, then scrubbed down with an abrasive finish. There’s an ethereal quality to the work, but when the aggressive sections kick in, fingers fly in flurries of dense tremolo picking, referencing the classic Scandinavian sound of Burzum, Emperor and even Windir without aping their execution. Its bombast is more Viking-era Bathory than Summoning, tempered by effusive harmonies and chilly, ambient synths that occasionally turn dreamy or even menacing (as in the “Clarissima Mundi Lumina”). It’s a staggering work of uncommon genius.