Album Review: Blut Aus Nord- Deus Salutis Meae (w/ bonus Torture skill!)

I threatened to review albums and stuff on here. Here you go.

Blut Aus Nord is a French progressive black metal project by a single dude who goes by the name Vindsval. He's been making music for a long time, with 12 full albums, half a dozen EPs, and a bunch of split releases too. Blut Aus Nord is well known for the albums The Work Which Transforms God (what a title! Someone should write a spell for that...) , Odinist, and the 777 album trilogy. One of the hallmarks of BAN's sound is an industrial aspect to the drums and a deep-sounding production with lots of echo and reverb.

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.

Vindsval
So this album. Deus Salutis Meae. Translated, it's "God of my Salvation". Not a title you'd expect from a black metal band. While Vindsval is definitely metal and a huge influence on the black metal subgenre, he hates the Satanism of most of the genre. Yet his own work has plenty of infernal imagery, occultism, and pagan themes. Rather than a pure disdain for Satanism in metal, I think Vindsval finds it more restrictive than anything else and wants to push his work in even more bizarre directions.

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.

I can only describe it as a soundtrack to visions of hellish torment. Chorea Macchabeorum is a hell of an opener for the album after its ambient intro. It's got high, menacing synths in the background, bringing a hint of Emperor into the track. Impius, which follows it, has a sort of Night On Bald Mountain-esque aspect where the guitar hovers and swarms menacingly above the track like a miasma of flies picking at rotting flesh. Choral wails evoke spirits in Malebolge, crying for relief they know will never come. Abisme is a slower, almost doom metal track, but with more tension than any doom I know aside from the better parts of Electric Wizard. These highlights stand out as different in sound for Blut Aus Nord, some of the heaviest and most menacing tracks in the discography.

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?

500/666
I 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.

Comments

  1. Do you actually play black metal during your games?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, fucking constantly. Black metal is life.

      Delete
    2. Bless you for being able to run the OSR atmosphere I always dream of. The closest I've gotten is Leviathan's A Silhouette in Splinters or acoustic guitar covers of Darkthrone and Emperor. Do the vocals ever get in the way of players being able to understand what is going on or are they also into BM?

      Delete
    3. The players don't mind the vocals. We don't play it so loud that harsh vocals or distortion are damaging our ears while we play, so the vocals don't bother us.

      Delete
  2. I have also had success with the likes of BAN, Deathspell, Portal and Black Witchery going in the background. Needs to be just loud enough to sink into the subconscious. Something that builds discomfort. An hour into a dungeon delve and the players start getting edgy.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Nice!
      Anything with an atmospheric aspect works really well. Portal has that nice fuzz and depth to it that gives it that. I find that Velvet Cacoon, some Isis and WitTR always seem to go nicely.
      My all-time favorite is The Wounded Kings- In the Chapel of the Black Hand. https://ihate.bandcamp.com/album/in-the-chapel-of-the-black-hand

      I may do a post of just music recommendations in the future. I definitely want to get some contributions like this

      \m/

      Delete

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