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Blut Aus Nord - "Memoria Vetusta II: Dialogue with the Stars" (CD)

Blut Aus Nord - "Memoria Vetusta II: Dialogue with the Stars" CD cover image

"Memoria Vetusta II: Dialogue with the Stars" track listing:

1. Acceptance (Aske) (1:30)
2. Disciple's Libration (Lost in the Nine Worlds) (9:07)
3. The Cosmic Echoes of Non-Matter (Immaterial Voices of the Fathers) (6:30)
4. Translucent Body of Air (Sutta Anapanasati) (2:24)
5. The Formless Sphere (Beyond the Reason) (7:54)
6. ...the Meditant (Dialogue With the Stars) (10:14)
7. The Alcove of Angels (Vipassana) (8:44)
8. Antithesis of the Flesh (...and Then Arises a New Essence) (9:28)
9. Elevation (4:11)

Reviewed by on April 21, 2009

"The remainder of the album strikes a nearly spot on balance between the harsh black metal and the acoustic interludes, frequently blending the two together in unexpected and interesting ways. "

French black metal act Blut Aus Nord is already well known for creating ambient and experimental black metal that other bands attempt to emulate. With the release of “Memoria Vetusta II: Dialogue with the Stars” they not only keep that reputation in tact but advance it another notch. The nominal sequel to the 1996 album “Memoria Vetusta I: Fathers of the Icy Age” could best be described as a “post-black metal” experiment that keeps some vestiges of the old school style while creating a meditative and ponderous atmosphere that could not be properly expressed in a more brutal offering.

The low key instrumental “Acceptance: Aske” opens the disc and sets up a long and bleak landscape with lots of empty spaces between sounds. The lack of the typical fantasy or horror vibe and the extended length of the track make it clear that the keyboards are there as a primary instrument and not simply to interject random symphonic elements to meet the requirements of any specific genre. The keys are choreographed so well with the guitars that the album truly would suffer as a whole if they had been left out.

The first few minutes of the second track “Disciple's Libration (Lost in the Nine Worlds)” seem to shift gears heavily back into old school black metal territory. The screeching vocals are kept lower in the mix and the production overall is slightly muted, although still much clearer than the sounds many other bands produce. The drums blast on at full speed and show no intention of ever slowing. A few of the epic baritone clean vocals even pop up, done in the traditional black metal style where they sound like they are echoing from several miles away. It isn’t until nearly six minutes into the song that the best aspects of Blut Aus Nord come fully into the light. The guitars suddenly slow down, the drums cease their blasting, and the entire song flows smoothly into an introspective and slightly melancholy segment that seems more interested in getting the listeners to consider their inner thoughts than bang their heads.

The remainder of the album strikes a nearly spot on balance between the harsh black metal and the acoustic interludes, frequently blending the two together in unexpected and interesting ways. In several instances the guitars even break clean from the standard buzzing sound inherent to black metal and go directly into more traditional crooning metal riffs at unpredictable times. Each change from heavy to atmospheric gets worked subtly into the overall song to produce very moody tracks that have an overall feel of sadness but never cross over into the annoyingly whiny.

Some of the best moments on the album are when the heavy elements get dropped entirely for extended portions of time, such as on “...the Meditant (Dialogue With the Stars).” For several minutes there are simplistic riffs played, then played through again with a few add-ons, and then played yet again with all of the pieces re-arranged so that it sounds almost like it’s playing in reverse. It’s those downplayed, but effective, moments that really jettison the album past the competition and reminds the listener of why the band is so well regarded in the first place.

“Memoria Vetusta II: Dialogue with the Stars” isn’t quite a perfect album, as there are a few transitions that aren’t completely smooth and the vocals could have benefited from getting a better spot in the mix. The few flaws are generally minor enough that they very rarely actually detract from the enjoyment of the album. Each of these songs should have a strong appeal to both fans of black metal and people interested in music with a strong ambient or experimental twist.

Highs: Moody keyboards, lots of interesting guitar departures that break out of the traditional black metal style

Lows: The vocals are a little too low in the mix, some of the transitions are abrupt

Bottom line: An introspective ambient black metal album well worth checking out

Rated 4.0 out of 5 skulls
4.0 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)