Review Summary: Memoria Vetusta III: Dialogue With The Riffs
It’s hard to fault Blut Aus Nord for their artistic vision. In exploring the sonic landscapes of everything from atmospheric black metal to industrial dirges and trip-hop influenced beatcrafting, these French extreme metal powerhouses have never been ones to sacrifice their sound in favor of following trends or appeasing potential outside influences. As a byproduct of this diverse and extensive career, the critical reaction that follows the band’s history tends to be just about as varied as their catalogue. With this being said, among the vast and impenetrable pantheon of music Blut Aus Nord has released in their almost 20 year career, two of their more universally lauded releases have been the albums released in the long standing Memoria Vetusta
series: 1996’s sophomore, second-wave influenced Fathers of the Icy Age
and the melodically transcendent Dialogue With The Stars
in 2009. With the band seemingly more and more interested in the idea of releasing albums as a part of a series (the latest string of albums all being a part of either the Liber
trilogies) it seemed high time they revisit and possibly bookend the longest running and arguably most successful of their thematically related efforts.
Now, in 2014, Blut Aus Nord have seen fit to resurrect the melodic aural landscapes of the Memoria Vetusta
series (which they have adamantly proclaimed is not
a trilogy) and expand on the ideas they began nearly 20 years ago. Saturnian Poetry
, their latest effort and the third release in this thematic cycle, is a fully realized, wholly successful addition to not only the Memoria Vetusta
series itself but to the entire Blut Aus Nord cannon. In fact, it might be the best album the band has released since Dialogue With The Stars
in 2009. Dropping all of the industrial and electronic influences that have defined the band’s sound over the last few years, Saturnian Poetry
is an unrelenting return to their roots, grounded in the melodic second-wave black metal sensibilities that defined their earliest releases and translated so well into the 2009 iteration of the Memoria Vetusta
While the gap between Father of the Icy Age
and Dialogue With The Stars
was considerably large, both chronologically and stylistically, the jump from Dialogue
to Saturnian Poetry
is far less pronounced. In fact, in many ways, this newest record is an almost a direct continuation of the groundwork laid out by 2009’s Dialogue With The Stars
. While the lyrical and ideological themes of Saturnian Poetry
are less grounded in the celestial concepts toyed with on Dialogue
, musically it is chock full of the same kinds of melodic riffs and atmospherics that have defined the previous iterations in this series. While the ambient sections that were characteristic of Dialogue
are present as well, they have been significantly curtailed, leaving us with an album that has seen all of the cinematic fat trimmed to markedly restrained levels (arguably an improvement over the previous efforts). What is left is nearly 50 minutes of streamlined, captivating melodic black metal that has been a hallmark of the Memoria Vetusta
lineage since its inception all those years ago.
Blut Aus Nord have also vastly improved how their latest offering sounds. While the drum machine that has been an essential part of their aesthetic for almost as long as they’ve been around worked wonderfully with the more industrial, dissonant atmospherics of many of their other releases, it did a bit of a disservice to the kind of music they attempted to craft on Dialogue With The Stars
. This time around, Blut Aus Nord seem to have employed the services of a physical drummer behind the kit who proves to be more than apt at complementing this style of music. Coupled with a particularly accomplished production and mastering job, they have made sure that the sound of this record matches the competence of their compositions. With clean, crisp guitars and balanced, well-mixed percussion, Saturnian Poetry
is dynamic and professional without sounding overproduced for the kind of music it contains. It isn’t just a good album; it sounds good as well.
Still, even when taking into account the many successful tweaks the band has made with this release, Saturnian Poetry
doesn’t quite manage to be as good as the first two albums in the Memoria Vetusta
series. While there are certainly an ample amount of great riffs and masterfully crafted melodic passages indicative of only the most seasoned extreme metal acts, the fact that this album sound so similar to Dialogue With The Stars
makes it all the more apparent that it and Fathers of an Icy Age
do a better job of capturing the transcendental cosmic sound they have been pursuing for the length of this series (unfortunately, it is doubtful that they will ever manage to write anything as good as “Disciple’s Liberation” again). While tracks like "Forhist" and "Metaphor of the Moon" contain some of the most engaging compositions they have crafted in recent years, they simply are not as captivating as some of the more sublime moments contained on either of the two aforementioned albums.
This does not mean, however, that Saturnian Poetry
is not a worthy addition to the Memoria Vetusta
series and the Blut Aus Nord catalogue in general. While it might not stand above the albums that precede it, it is a fully realized and artfully crafted release that deserves an ample amount of recognition even when compared to its earlier thematic brethren. Blut Aus Nord have proven why they are still one of the premiere extreme metal acts around, and Saturnian Poetry
should please almost everyone who has been eagerly anticipating a continuation of their unique brand of melodic and atmospheric black metal.