Review Summary: A mystical journey through planes unknown.
Do you remember the last time you just sat and looked up at the stars on a clear night? It’s amazing how such a simple act can fill you with childlike wonder and amazement at the vastness of the cosmos and what lay beyond it. French progressive black metal outfit Blut aus Nord has successfully channeled these feelings into musical form with their latest effort Memoria Vetusta II: Dialogue With the Stars
, and I’m not kidding around in saying that it’s a serious contender for album of the year.
Black metal is usually typified by its instrumental simplicity and minimalism which it uses to get its point across bluntly, but Memoria Vetusta II: Dialogue With the Stars
is a fairly complex piece of music comparatively speaking. The guitar melodies are richly harmonized and highlighted by the wonderful production, much of the time played with tremolo picking, as is the black metal custom. Though a persistent celestial vibe is given off throughout the album, none of the songs can really be mistaken for another as the guitars employ a multitude of techniques and songwriting devices that never fail to take the listener off-guard and pique their interest in the piece.
Tremolo’d riffs are counterbalanced by heavy-as-hell palm muted power chord sections and moments of contemplation where the keyboards take the lead while the song continues to steadily pace along beneath. The keyboards aren’t as prevalent here as they are on Blut aus Nord’s other work, especially their first few albums, but they fill in the gaps between the two guitars very nicely and help the album to maintain its mystique. The drumming may not be the most technical stuff in the world, but I can’t imagine it being any more fitting to the album as it never draws too much attention to itself and always seems to be playing the right thing at the right time. The vocals sort of come and go as they please but add to the songs in a butter-on-bread sort of way. Honestly though, if the album were completely instrumental I would like it just as much; it’s that good.
There will be those that accuse Blut aus Nord of being too daring or artsy with this release, but it amazes me how they continue to confidently unfold their sound into unexplored territory without losing touch with their roots. Quite frankly, Memoria Vetusta II: Dialogue With the Stars
, along with Beherit’s Engram
gives me hope that modern black metal isn’t going to completely collapse in on itself and become totally irrelevant within the next year. Blut aus Nord is still showing that they aren’t afraid to break new ground and challenge stereotypes without compromising the gloom, pessimism, and spirituality that black metal is all about. If you’re losing faith in modern black metal, this could be one album to restore it.