Blut Aus Nord

777 – Cosmosophy

01. Epitome XIV
02. Epitome XV
03. Epitome XVI
04. Epitome XVII
05. Epitome XVIII

[09/21/12]
[Debemur Morti Productions]

Taken merely at surface value, French black metal outfit Blut Aus Nord’s 777 trilogy (2011’s Sect(s) & The Desanctification and 2012’s Cosmosophy) could be interpreted as a unique and effective blend of Deathspell Omega’s chaotic black metal and Godflesh’s grinding industrial groove. Such a conclusion would mistakenly settle for genre tags rather than allowing the trilogy’s expansive sonic themes to define these three releases for the monoliths that they are. The core sensation lies within the plight of a delicate human soul being torn to shreds as infernal and divine forces both lust for ownership via a celestial tug of war. For moments of varying brevity, the spirit experiences respite in purgatory as the higher beings recuperate for another bought of soul reaping.

While certainly an extraordinary summary of these albums’ accomplishments, BAN undoubtedly excels at their ability to seamlessly transition between sinister blackened bludgeonings and gorgeous ethereal soundscapes. Cosmosophy is perhaps BAN’s most pristine example of this talent, the strongest album in the 777 trilogy and the most appropriate to conclude it.

Whereas Sect(s) most embodied the aforementioned hellish traits and The Desanctification the heavenly ones, Cosmosophy captures a nigh-immaculate balance of both moods established by its predecessors. Swirling atmospheres of torment and triumph engulf each of the album’s five tracks, crafting a majestic mood appropriate for a film soundtrack. Haunting melodic drones, trudging dirges of despair and spectacular explorations of stark minimalism: all traits of each “Epitome” that are utilized to achieve the balance and seamlessness BAN explored previously.

‘Epitome XVI’ provides the perfect example of these subtle transitions. As one mood becomes fervently established and fleshed out, the sounds masterfully shift to the antithetical feeling without a hint of delay or misstep. The transition is an element of composition difficult to musicians of every genre, making BAN’s blatant mastery of it that much more enjoyable and impressive.

There is one shortcoming on this album that should be mentioned. One of the defining traits of black metal is its vocalists’ tortured shrieks, and BAN certainly lives up to this precedent. However, clean vocals are a territory that bands in the genre should either avoid or approach with caution, and for good reason. Cleans, just like any vocal style, must fit the style of music in order to be effective, and the typical landscape created with black metal is not one satisfactory for most styles of cleans. Modern bands in the genre have admittedly excelled at this, what with Wolves in the Throne Room’s nymph-like female chants, Alcest’s soft, angelic croons and Woods of Ypres’ baritone opera delivery.

On Cosmosophy, however, BAN unsuccessfully delves into the realm of cleans with a style that is both out of place with and overshadowed by the grandiose nature of the backing music. The francophone mantras present in ‘Epitome XV’ would be a much more appropriate substitution, but the clean vocal delivery elsewhere on the album leaves much to be desired. Quite frankly, these sections would be much better if left as instrumental passages, as the subpar vocal delivery detracts from the overall mood.

Despite this minor flaw, the whole of Cosmosophy excels in every other way. As the serene hum of a synth ends album closer ‘Epitome  XVIII,’ an image of the human soul finally settling and finding peace solidifies the conclusion of BAN’s three album musical journey. With Cosmosophy, BAN has not only solidified the 777 trilogy as required listening for current and virgin black metal fans alike, but as undoubtedly three of the greatest black metal records of the decade thus far. It will come as no surprise if the black metal experience of the year earns a top spot on several year-end lists.

Blut Aus Nord – 777 – Cosmosophy gets…

4.5/5

– SM

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