It’s an undisputed fact that the French make great black metal. Whether it’s French Canadian (Cantique Lepreux, Fortresse) or from France (Deathspell Omega, Celestia) when I see the word “French” used to describe a black metal project, I perk my ears up. Of all the French black metal acts, however, Blut Aus Nord may be the most notorious. Beginning life as a one man project under the name of Vlad in 1995, the project’s name was changed to Blut Aus Nord prior to the release of Ultima Thulee. Now, 22 years and releases later (counting their various EPs and splits), Blut Aus Nord return with album 12, Deus Salutis Meae.
2017 has seen many bands who lurk on the dark fringes of extreme metal popping up to unleash new albums on the unsuspecting masses: Akercocke, Dodecahedron and Ulsect being the most prominent, but Blut Aus Nord has dwarfed them all. In fact, Deus Salutis Meae succeeds exactly where I feel Akercocke’s latest album fails: Despite the band’s lengthy discography, and the shape of today’s music scene, Blut Aus Nord have managed to put out an album that’s shocking.
Deus Salutis Meae is disgusting. It’s the musical equivalent of the ocean floor. It’s dark, imposing, murky, and the amount of pressure it exerts is crushing. Blut Aus Nord have done it again. After a brief, unsettling intro, “Chorea Macchabeorum” drags you into Blut Aus Nord’s world. It’s hard to describe just how fucking revolting this song is. Harsh, industrialized drumming pounds your eardrums into submission as creeping tendrils of distorted guitar melodies unfurl themselves around you. Clean vocals make a brief appearance, but are quickly drowned out by disgusting moans. This song does well at setting the tone for what’s to come.
What follows is what I consider to be the album’s best track, “Impius.“ It’s a dreadful, nightmarish piece of music. The first thing I noticed about this track was the stomach-churning synths in the background. They create a truly nauseating foundation for Blut Aus Nord to build upon. And build upon it they do. The track features several melodic moments, but they’re quickly smothered by the relentless onslaught of dissonant guitar riffs. And when I say “melodic” you gotta remember that I’m not talking about Soilwork here, even the melodic riffs on Deus Salutis Meae are designed to make you feel uneasy. To make matters even more dire, the song features a sample of an infant’s horrible cries, buried under several layers of buzzsaw guitars. If someone were to turn on a radio in Silent Hill, I imagine this is what they’d hear.
After another miniscule ambient track, “Apostasis” is a welcome return to more traditional black metal, featuring frosty vocals instead of pained moans, and blastbeats instead of nonstop industrial pounding. It says a lot, though, that black metal this savage is seen as a port in the storm. Surrounded by the filth and horror of the rest of the album, some grim, Norwegian-flavoured black metal is a soothingly familiar rest stop before we are inevitably pulled back into the roiling chaos of the album’s B-side.
The next three tracks all play similarly to the album’s A-side; two grotesque platters of hideous riffs, followed by an unsettling ambient track. However, neither of the two full-on songs reach the same highs (or, in Blut Aus Nord’s case, cavernous depths) as “Impius.” But it’s on the ninth track, “Ex Tenebrae Lucis” that things get real unnerving again. Feeling like a halfway point between traditional black metal, and Blut Aus Nord’s take on it, “Ex Tenebrae Lucis” is far from a happy medium. It plays around enough with black metal genre tropes that the song feels familiar, but it’s that very familiarity that allows the song to get under your skin. Subtle changes to the black metal formula, coupled with industrial drumming and riffs being played a half second earlier or later than you feel they ought to be, really allow this song to get under your skin.
Album closer “Metanoia” is pure Blut Aus Nord; however. It feels like a recap of everything we’ve heard so far on Deus Salutis Meae, and it’s every bit as sickening as you’d hope. The way it ends is interesting as well. Some more traditional melodic guitar lines can be heard breaking through the din as clean vocals make their presence known yet again. It’s a surprisingly clean end for an album so vile, and leaves you with something to think about in the calm after the storm.
I’ve learned to appreciate albums that can be summed up in one word, and Deus Salutis Meae is one such album. Malevolent. It is malevolent. Sure, there are albums out there that sound angrier than this, but most of them lack the conviction found on this album. This music is alive with sinister intent, seething and churning with destructive force. If you consider yourself a connoisseur of extreme metal in any of its various forms, I advise you not to miss this album. Deus Salutis Meae is evil put to music, nightmares made real. It’s a harrowing ride that I enjoyed every filthy second of. Praise doesn’t come much higher than that.
You can order Deus Salutis Meae from Blut Aus Nord’s Bandcamp page.