Blut Aus Nord, Ævangelist join warped forces, bloody waters on split ‘Codex Obscura Nomina’

Blut Aevangelst coverThere are some unions that, where you hear of them, you nod and confirm that said bond makes total and complete sense. So when my inbox was infiltrated by a new split release pitting Blut Aus Nord with Ævangelist, it didn’t really shock me. That’s a release that’s just too much logical.

For Blut Aus Nord, we’ve long been enchanted by their strange form of black metal, one that has twisted and turned over the years, taken on surprising new elements, and really hasn’t bowed to anyone’s wishes. The band, led by the unstoppable Vidsval (guitars, vocals) and rounded out by keyboardist/electronics wizard W.D. Feld, bassist GhOst, and drummer Thorns, has whipped out 11 full-lengths since their formation in 1994, their most recent being 2014’s excellent “Memoria Vetusta III: Saturnian Poetry.” Their four tracks on this split release “Codex Obscura Nomina” shift even further away from pure black metal and into industrial, trip-hop elements that have been woven through their work over the years. Their cuts here are strange, nightmarish, and intoxicating, a definite foray away from the band’s center (which, granted, is way different than most). That makes these songs really exciting and something that might indicate even more experimentation in the future.

“Evanescent Hallucinations” begins with strange industrial sounds before opening up in the mouth of a storm. Thick keys make the song sound like a dark carnival, with really weird, nightmarish melodies laced into the track. Buried growls rumble, with the back end of the track bubbling up as a monstrous sprawl. “Resonnance(s)” makes it feel like the room is spinning, with slurry, odd, dreamlike imagery taking hold. The growls dissolve, while chants rise up, a clean, deranged wails explode behind the din, and everything fades into a sound cloud. “The Parallel Echoes” has static beats and off-kilter playing, with gurgly growls sounding like a demonic strangulation, before they hit a humid simmer. Mesmerizing guitars float, as the weird riffs levitate in mid-air, and the sound reverberates inside your chest. “Infra-Voices Ensemble” is their final deed, bleeding in from the darkness and heading into aggressive programmed beats. Harsh growls slice their way in, as the tempo reaches its dark arms across you and embraces with force. The track punches and pelts, with the beats maintaining their intensity and then subsiding in a cloud of noise. Really interesting stuff from one of the world’s most inventive bands.

As for Ævangelist, they, too, walk their own path, which is fucked up with tons of dissonance and jarring noise that go against every fiber of metal’s grain. They have been quite prolific as of late, with three full-length efforts that past three years (last year’s “Enthrall to the Void of Bliss” is their most recent and first for 20 Buck Spin), as well as a couple of EPs. On this split, the band—Matron Thorn (guitars, vocals, bass, noise) and Ascaris (vocals, saxophone, cello)—commit their longest song to date, a 21:33 opus that takes up their entire side of the effort, and one awash in great terror. As usual, their music isn’t easy to approach, especially if you’re not familiar with their style. But if you participate fully and let the music wash over you, it’s easy to fall prey to their punishing hypnosis, which could leave you lost, disoriented, and oddly speaking in strange tongues.

“Threshold of the Miraculous” has a numbing start, with drums and beats rattling, then growls beginning to make their way across. Weird melodies swirl into a sound vortex, and then things really get started, with gurgles bubbling up, menacing messages being delivered, and then a stretch of uneasy quiet. That’s torn apart by slicing riffs that sound almost conventional (at least in an Ævangelist world), before the first stretch of speaking arrives, switching back and forth between tongues, and sounding like a sermon for the end of days. That melts into death and an array of dizzying sounds, with the monologue returning and then dissolving into a stretch of lurching growls and a melody burst that spins out of control. “Bow down and pray!” is bellowed over and over, way more a threat than an invitation, while the last few minutes bend into feral ugliness and go out in death fumes. This is one of Ævangelist’s more daring pieces yet, one that holds its own quite well with their split mates.

As much as I enjoy split releases that feature bands coming at things from completely different angles, it’s also great to hear one where both groups are operating within the same sphere, albeit with different agendas. Blut Aus Nord and Ævangelist are two of metal’s most daring and interesting bands, and you never can guess with total certainly where either will gravitate next. To have both locked into the same creative space is an enthralling thing, one that will reprogram your brain and how you process art.

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PICK OF THE WEEK: Ævangelist’s chaos, infernal flames smeared all over ‘Writhes in the Murk’

Photo by Alyssa L. Paulsen

Photo by Alyssa L. Paulsen

Chaos and torment are elements that make up a great deal of metal in this day and age, and sometimes they can serve to undo works of art. Too much of either can feel overbearing or even annoying. But the right amounts, presented the correct way, can enthrall and even cause you to teeter on the edge of your own breakdown.

They haven’t been clubbing souls for long, but Ævangelist have, in a little under five years, shown the word what true panic is all about. Their music is suffocating and terror inducing, like you’re trapped underneath a great weight or lodged in a deep tunnel, with only your throbbing anxiety there to keep you company. Their sounds are pummeling and punishing, but also oddly intoxicating, like you’re being overcome by a great cloud of mind-altering smoke. It’s such a strange experience, and with each of their first two albums–2012’s “De Masticatione Mortuorum in Tumulis” and last year’s great “Omen Ex Simulacra”–this Illinois/Oregon-based band has created an audio journey that equals strange nightmares from which you feel you’ll never wake. Sound perversely pleasing? Good, because it is.

Aevangelist coverNow comes the band’s third record, the massive and swelling “Writhes in the Murk,” and the title is appropriate because that’s what you’ll feel like you’re doing listening to this many-tentacled beast. Death and black metal are there ripping apart foundations with their tornadic approach, while heavy and gusty industrial elements also make their presence known and give the record the feeling like it was formed in great steam-filled factories. After all, how else would these strange figures in vocalist Ascaris (he also handles sax and cello) and multi-instrumentalist Matron Thorn come up with such menacing, steely creations. Shit, I often forget they’re based in the Midwest and Pacific Northwest, they’re so bizarre. It feels like they should hail from a rogue, burning planet or underground. Oh, and when they play live, the lineup swells further, including musicians Æryn, ][, The Auditor, and S.

“Hosanna” starts off the filth hymnals, and you can bet they’re not being sent on high, as noisy industrial pounding and murky, churning guitars open up this madness. The vocals go from warped growls to pained moans, and the whole environment is eerie and strange. Everything explodes anew toward the end, with drums splattering, the vocals being spat crazily, and everything disappearing into a hiss. “The Only Grave” is built on doom-heavy riffs, slurry melodies, and gurgling vocals, like Ascaris has a pool of blood welling in the back of his throat. The song sounds like it would be appropriate material for a dank dungeon, where some poor bastard is hanging upside waiting to be tortured. “Præternigma” has black metal powering it forward, and along the way it meets up with more harsh growls, a thick haze of violence, and then some eerie, almost prog-style playing that trickles all over. Odd bellowing emerges like a crazed prisoner being held somewhere, potentially hallucinating, and the final grinding moments ensure the proper amount of damage was done. “Disquiet” brings things back to calm temporarily, acting as a weird, blip-filled bridge into the second half of the record.

“Ælixir” has a neurotic, twisted sense, with vocals and guitars swirling about and a mashing sensibility that smears you. Creepy dialogue emerges, noise whinnies and pierces, and horns cry out, meeting up with bone-dusting drums. The song takes a foggy, jazzy curve, the music sustains serious artistic damage, and the song bleeds out into the night. “Harken the Flesh” has a slow, weird start that also heads toward black metal terrain, but the kind that also is inhabited by bands such as Deathspell Omega and Blut Aus Nord. The song is mucky and muddy, there are zaps of noise, and some old-style guitar soloing hits toward the end. That’s the weirdest part of the song, the section that feels the most straight-forward. “Halo of Lamented Glory” blasts open with a rock-solid riff, abrasive growls, and more nauseating melodies that might make you think the room is spinning. The second half of the song straightens out a bit, headed slightly toward accessibility, and the track fizzles out in static. The closing title cut has a clean, creative bend, and some classical-style guitar playing emerges to add a sense of infernal class into the proceedings. The song charges up, of course, as guitars chug, the vocals belch tar, and the hell is allowed to spread all over. As the track goes on, it gets stranger and stranger, with a female voice providing icy commentary that borders on inviting death, and the final moments offer room for both hammering violence and alien transmissions that leave your head swimming and you confused as to what you just heard. It’s a hell of an unsettling album, and I know it took me several listens just to digest everything that was going on here. I’m still not sure I have a complete handle on it.

There’s no way to put Ævangelist into a corner or to hold them to some kind of standard, other than experimental excellence. They put their own spin in black and death metal, and everything they do is interesting and compelling. “Writhes in the Murk” continues the band on their path of infernal chaos and proves that they’re only scratching the surface of what they can do creatively. It’s weird, it’s warped, and it doesn’t go down easily, which are high compliments. This band will burn a hole into your gut and your psyche at the same time. Holy shit, what could possibly be next?

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