Album Review: Blut Aus Nord- Deus Salutis Meae (w/ bonus Torture skill!)
I threatened to review albums and stuff on here. Here you go.
I love Blut Aus Nord, and any time I see a release I get it as soon as I can. I haven't been let down yet, as it's always either fantastic or at the least interesting. That was the case with the last project, Codex Obscura Nomina, which was experimental but not quite enjoyable. New Blut Aus Nord, though? Sign me the fuck up.
For those familiar with Blut Aus Nord, this album will likely sound more dense than what you're accustomed to hearing. It begins with a synthesizer intro by the name of Δημιουργός (Demiurgos, translated). I like when my black metal has good ambient synthwork, and this is some good shit. There are a couple other interludes: track 4, Γνῶσις (Gnosis), and track Ήσυχασμός (Hesychasm), all of which are a relief from the all-encompassing heaviness of the album while being dark and menacing themselves. Interludes are fairly rare for BAN, but these are good and I'd love to hear an album of material like this.
The body of the album is, like I said, dense. The production is as cavernous and reverberant as ever, but packed tightly with guitars that chug until they explode into spirals of dissonance. The drums echo like they're ten feet in diameter, and they have that steady, locked-in Blut Aus Nord semi-industrial rhythm that you won't find anywhere else. They stay a bit more restrained than on other albums, mostly avoiding blast beats in favor of deeper tone. The bass accompanies them in the depths of the tracks, with a heavy, heavy tone. This is an area where BAN always stands out, putting in hefty amounts of bass in where other black metal bands favor thinner production that relies more on lead and rhythm guitars and blast beats than bass.
The guitars. They're fucking everywhere in this album. Vindsval produces all his own stuff, and he knows what he's doing. Even though it's just him, there are sometimes 3 guitar parts going on at once: an almost Meshuggah-esque chug accompanying the rhythm, a dissonant lead, and a tremolo all occupying a different space in the track. There is not a moment of silence when a track is in full swing, just an all-out assault of hellish energy.
As for the album as a whole, it doesn't hold up as well as its individual parts. After Abisme, the album begins to feel monotonous. None of the tracks are bad, but they don't grab me like the first half of the album. Any one of them could have fit, but all of them together weakens the second half of the project quite a bit. And when Metanoia rolls around, it doesn't feel like an album closer. It continues full force until literally 3 seconds before the end of the album, where it fades out really abruptly.
What do I think?
500/666I was surprised on first listen at how much Vindsval's production and writing continue to evolve. The density of this album, its sheer volume and unrelenting atmosphere is surprising even to someone who is very familiar with his former work. Clearly, there are still new sounds to explore and realms to conquer. But between this and his last album, it feels as though Blut Aus Nord doesn't know quite where to go in this direction. There are some incredible sounds in both, but nothing as cohesive and compulsively replayable as the 777 albums or the Memoria Vetusta series. Hopefully he continues to refine his experiments, and puts out a more polished and complete project using the techniques he's been developing, so that we can get an album that can sustain the chaos he's creating here all throughout.
Using it for a game: It should make for excellent accompaniment to a battle full of summoned creatures, a demonic slaughter, or a scene of Inferno-esque mass torment.
Bonus Gameable Content:
Sometimes straightforward talkin' just don't cut it. Stubborn NPCs hold back out of loyalty or some crap like that. What's a murderhobo to do? Enhanced interrogation, as we call it in the 21st century, to give it that Newspeak edge and absolve ourselves of guilt.
Torture is the dark side of the Medicine/Healing skill; characters can turn their knowledge of the body against those they're sworn to help. A successful torture roll forces the subject to reveal the answer to one question honestly and to the best of their knowledge.
Torture rolls can only be made once per 4 hours - the subject's Con modifier (a +1 modifier would allow a check every 3 hours, etc) , as the body must recover before it is subjected to pain again, lest it become numb or be overcome and die of shock.
When making a roll, the torturer may choose the degree of pain they wish to inflict, the higher the level increasing the chance of successful torture. The torturer receives a +1 bonus to the skill per point of damage inflicted beyond the first. If a torturer can successfully lower the subject's hp to exactly 1 in a single roll, the subject is thoroughly dominated and will answer all questions honestly until their death.
After a torture roll is made, the torturer must roll 2d6+ the number of hp inflicted. If the roll exceeds the subject's Morale score, then the subject is broken and will say anything to placate their torturer and ease the pain, only giving useful information 50% of the time. If the subject was dominated as described above, the subject does not break.