Review Summary: Simply put, an artistic gem. Dark and brooding, this atmospheric album is only stopped from being a classic by a single misplaced and unfitting track.
If anyone has seen the cover of this album (or you could look to your right), you will see that it is a grey and distorted inner-city street, which is completely deserted and void of any colour, light or hope. This is basically what Thematic Emanation is as an EP; a dark and torturous journey into the inner depths of your mind. This isn’t the type of release to be taken lightly, where you can pick it up and listen to a song or two and leave it for later. You need to put it on, close your eyes, and let the darkness wash over you. To be honest, this came as a huge surprise to me. I had never listened to Blut Aus Nord before, and all I knew about them was that they were a French black metal band. This EP is far from black metal. Rather, it is a combination of dark, atmospheric passages and industrial metal, with no lyrics bar a couple of spoken word sections. But this is where the EP falls short of its mark. I would have very easily given this 28 minute, relatively unknown EP a rating of 5 if it had not been for the shoddy attempt at incorporating industrial themes into the music. The only song where the industrial music is really apparent is the third track, Level-2 (Nothing is Not). Seeing as it is 7 minutes long and represents a quarter of the EP, there was no way I could overlook it. Nonetheless, the rest of the EP is absolute brilliance.
For those that do not already know, I have had a long lasting love affair with concept albums, especially when they are politically significant, or dark and mysterious. Thematic Emanation falls under the latter. It is so mysterious in fact, that I can’t be certain of what it is about nor can I find anything on the internet that will give me much of a clue. I translated the several French phrases in the booklet, but alas I was still not in a position of understanding. Still, the beauty of it is that not knowing what it is about makes it all the more enjoyable to listen to. Like I said before, the mystery makes it interesting. However, I will try to make some sort of sense from the EP, and I hope that my rambling will help you to reach your own conclusions as well. So together with a brooding, intense atmosphere, the EP takes you on a journey, beginning in the Transformed God Basement, through Levels 1, 2 and 3, and then out, towards the Asylum.
Enter (The Transformed God Basement)
The album begins with faint, heavenly voices calling out in the distance. They’re echoed, blurred, as if in a dream. Suddenly, you’re thrown awake by an evil, brooding, lumbering beast. The introduction to Thematic Emanation is a slow moving, eerie piece of music, that is driven by its weighted drum beats, and mutated into something dark, dank, dingy, dirty, or shall we say ‘Basement-like’, by the twisted synth. The guitars and drums are slow moving, and the introduction sets the mood perfectly for your entrance to Level-1, Nothing Is.
Level-1 (Nothing Is)
This is the best track on the EP. It’s thesis being that Nothing is here, Nothing is real, Nothing Is. It begins immediately with the same lumbering pace that Enter left us with, but with an entrancing, forlorn lead guitar playing over the slow riffing and drumming. Distorted screams and voices resonate through your head as you drift in and out of consciousness. A little while into the song, the nightmare becomes a reality when the synth begins. An aggressive, menacing melody, which lasts for less than half a minute, but paves the way for the most striking moment on the CD. The entire song stops and the aforementioned lead guitar wails by itself, emphasising the torment behind the music. To be honest, I was very stricken by the song. Throughout its entire length, be it synth samples, the haunting lead guitar, the menacing riffs, or the spoken word samples, I was hooked onto every little sound Blut Aus Nord fed into my ears. The song reached two amazing climaxes in its 8 minutes, before finally collapsing into Nothing, which is where you realise that it’s all Nothing, Nothing exists, Nothing is real, Nothing Is.
Level-2 (Nothing Is Not)
This is where I stop the abuse of adjectives and tell you why this album is not perfect. The third track, Nothing Is Not, is a complete departure from anything that the EP had made you envision so far. I do not doubt that it is part of the concept, and obviously you aren’t going to find the same things on Level 2 as you did on Level 1, but this track ruined the EP for me. I was not able to comprehend any sort of meaning or relevance from the placing of Level-2. Instead of doing something as stark and imaginative as Level 1, we have a bland and monotonous industrial track that doesn’t really bridge the emotion portrayed by the first section and last section of the album. The song begins with another slow drum beat, and then a head-nod inducing bass line soon follows. That is the first half of the song. The second half of the song is a more pronounced bass line, much lighter drumming, and more audible synth. The two sections are connected by a quiet minute and a half interlude. I was overall disappointed with this track, and really thought it stole the EP’s thunder.
Level-3 (Nothing Becomes)
With the last major track, Blut Aus Nord manage to re-piece the atmosphere they had first created, after the shocking Level-2. Nothing Becomes is in a way very melodic , and a great conclusion to the tri-partite nightmare that is Thematic Emanation. The track is drowned in soft, mellow, melancholic synth, and made very spooky with a continuous chanting, and it will lull you to the understanding that is required. You’ve reached Level-3, and this is the point where you realise it is all pointless, Nothing Ends, Nothing Begins, Nothing Was, Nothing Is, and Nothing will ever Become. Life as it is understood by some will never Become anything. You’ve understood the selfishness and depravity of what our lives really are, and you are at peace with this realisation. The very end of the track sees you leaving this building of torment, this building that opened your eyes, and facing the real world. Fading metallic noises move away into nothingness, and you step outside to face your reckoning.
Exit (Towards the Asylum)
Exit is the conclusion to this journey you’ve undertaken, and is mainly made up of sound-effects and a sort of chanting that sounds similar to an Islamic prayer, played from a mosque. The track begins with a horrible scraping noise, or your return outside. There is distorted, evil heckling, that surrounds you while the chanting is your prosecutor, condemning you for falling out of line. For your punishment, you are declared insane and it’s off to the Asylum you go. There was another ending I envisioned in the music as well. The final few seconds have the track fading, and the sounds of someone gulping, choking for air, which could easily represent your punishment of being hung by your neck while the crowd jeers below you. Either way, it finishes off the album extraordinarily.
Overall, the album is magnificent. There is no pretension; the album is solid and humbling. Even so, the third track really did not work for me. There may be some people who enjoy it, some who even think it musically fits with the rest of the songs, but I did not think it fit. Rather, it felt very out of place. If not for Level-2, I would have had no qualms in giving this release a 5. Still, it is a brilliant atmospheric EP, and I highly recommend it to anyone. I also hope that my obscure and imaginative attempts at deciphering the album are not out of place; instead, I hope they help you make your own mind about what this album really wants you to think and feel.
Rien n’est...L’oeil se trompe...
Et ne voit que ce qui est projeté sur un écran de volonté.