Blut Aus Nord’s ‘Disharmonium – Nahab’: A Lovecraftian Musical Journey

Alex de Borba

Alex de Borba

In 1993, in Mondeville, Calvados, a region of Normandy, France, a distinctive French black metal ensemble, Blut Aus Nord, made its first appearance in the music sphere. The band’s name, translating to “Blood from the North,” mirrors their profound affinity for Northern European musical traditions. The originator and continuing linchpin of the band is Vindsval, who is widely acknowledged for his instrumental role in its formation.

Vindsval, a multi-instrumentalist, remains the band’s only constant member. The band was formed in 1993, and their early years were characterized by a raw, atmospheric black metal sound. Their debut album, ‘Ultima Thulée,’ was released in 1995. Steeped in Nordic mythology, this album solidified Blut Aus Nord’s reputation for creating aggressive and ethereal music.

During their formative years, Blut Aus Nord drew inspiration from Norwegian black metal icons like Mayhem and Darkthrone, as well as Swedish powerhouses such as Bathory. Despite these influences, Blut Aus Nord has consistently carved out a unique niche within the black metal genre, skillfully weaving atmospheric and avant-garde components into their music from the very beginning.

However, Blut Aus Nord did not merely imitate these bands. Instead, they carved out a unique niche within the black metal genre from the very beginning. Drawing on these influences, they skillfully integrated atmospheric and avant-garde components into their music, thereby pushing the boundaries of the genre and setting them apart from their contemporaries. Thus, while they drew heavily from the iconic Scandinavian bands during their formative years, Blut Aus Nord managed to add a new and unique flavor to the black metal scene.

A key feature of Blut Aus Nord’s initial sonic identity was their skillful manipulation of atmosphere. They often incorporated slower, more melodic sections into their compositions, creating a stark contrast with the more tumultuous parts. These atmospheric intermissions frequently utilized keyboards, adding an extra dimension of complexity and depth to their sound structure.

Dissonance was another crucial element of Blut Aus Nord’s initial sound spectrum. Their compositions often highlighted discordant guitar riffs and non-traditional song arrangements, imbuing their sound with an aura of unease and unpredictability.

During the formative and middle stages of the 1990s, the black metal scene was predominantly dominated by the second wave of Scandinavian black metal bands, exemplified by Mayhem, Darkthrone, and Emperor. These bands garnered fame for their raw and intense sound, as well as their utilization of Satanic and pagan imagery.

Blut Aus Nord distinguished themselves from this crowd in several noteworthy ways. While drawing inspiration from the Scandinavian black metal panorama, they infused their sound with elements of industrial, ambient, and avant-garde music, enriching their sonic tapestry with greater diversity and complexity than many of their contemporaries.

Moreover, Blut Aus Nord distanced themselves from the prevalent Satanic and pagan themes characteristic of the black metal zeitgeist of the period. Their lyrics delved into philosophical and existential motifs, imbuing their music with an added layer of depth and introspection.

In this way, Blut Aus Nord existed within and yet deviated from the broader black metal scene. While being influenced by the genre’s conventions, they demonstrated a willingness to push those boundaries in innovative and unique directions. This made them a distinct and influential force in the evolution of black metal.

Blut Aus Nord’s inaugural full-length release, ‘Ultima Thulée,’ made its way to audiences on January 15th, 1995 through Debemur Morti Productions. The album continued to embrace the raw and fierce black metal displayed in their demo recordings, while also hinting at their forthcoming musical direction. It introduced atmospheric interludes and a dedication to crafting an immersive sonic landscape. In contrast to the steadfast adherence to traditional black metal found in ‘Ultima Thulée,’ ‘Memoria Vetusta I: Fathers of the Icy Age,’ released on January 11th, 1996 through Spinefarm Records, saw the band skillfully incorporating more melodious and atmospheric elements into their sound.

Over the years, Blut Aus Nord’s sound has evolved significantly. The band’s sophomore full-length album, ‘Memoria Vetusta I – Fathers of the Icy Age,’ continued in the atmospheric black metal vein, but with a more melodic and progressive approach. The album incorporated more melodic elements and complex song structures, moving away from the rawness of their debut. This marked the beginning of the ‘Memoria Vetusta’ series, a trilogy of albums that would span over a decade, culminating in ‘Memoria Vetusta III – Saturnian Poetry’ on October 10th, 2014.

Nevertheless, it was the unveiling of ‘The Mystical Beast of Rebellion’ on December 14th, 2001, that marked Blut Aus Nord’s decisive plunge into expanding the confines of black metal. This album saw the band eschewing conventional black metal song constructs, choosing instead to adopt a more abstract and exploratory approach. Its sonic identity is characterized by discordant guitar riffs, unhurried tempos, and dense, layered soundscapes.

Blut Aus Nord’s transition towards a more experimental sound trajectory persisted with the release of ‘The Work Which Transforms God’ on March 17th, 2003. Frequently hailed as a cornerstone of the avant-garde black metal subgenre, this album presents an amalgamation of black metal, industrial, and ambient music, focusing on crafting a dense and disconcerting atmosphere. The album’s dissonant riffs, non-conformist song structures, and integration of electronic elements distinguish it from most other black metal offerings of that era.

This pivotal transition towards a more experimental and atmospheric sound left an indelible impact on the black metal genre. It manifested that black metal could transcend the confines of raw ferocity and Satanic symbolism, integrating a wide array of influences and stylistic orientations. This introduced novel possibilities within the genre, inspiring a multitude of bands to innovate their own auditory signatures such as Deathspell Omega, Alcest, Lantlôs, In the Woods…, Wolves in the Throne Room, Agalloch, Fen, Ash Borer, and Altar of Plagues.

These bands have all incorporated elements of ambient music, electronic music, and experimental music into their sound, and they have all explored philosophical and existential themes in their lyrics. For example, Alcest’s use of clean vocals and ethereal soundscapes was inspired by Blut aus Nord’s album ‘Memoria Vetusta II: Dialogue with the Stars.’ Deathspell Omega’s use of dissonance and harsh noise was inspired by Blut aus Nord’s album ‘The Work Which Transforms God.’ And Mgla’s use of long, droning passages and atmospheric soundscapes was inspired by Blut aus Nord’s album ‘Cosmosophy.’

Blut Aus Nord’s experimental methodology also garnered them substantial critical accolades. ‘The Work Which Transforms God,’ in particular, is frequently lauded as one of the most seminal black metal albums of the 2000s. It demonstrated that black metal could embody innovation and progressive thinking, establishing a high benchmark for contemporaneous bands to aspire to.

A defining hallmark of ‘The Work Which Transforms God’ is its ambiance. The album crafts an atmosphere of disquiet and apprehension through its dissonant riffs and languid, deliberate tempos. This effect is enhanced by the incorporation of industrial and electronic elements, which lend a frigid, mechanistic tone to the music.

The album further distinguishes itself with its philosophical and existential themes. The lyrics explore profound topics such as the essence of divinity and the universe, bestowing an additional layer of depth and introspection to the music.

‘The Work Which Transforms God’ stands as a significant milestone in the avant-garde black metal subgenre. With its discordant riffs, unconventional song structures, and richly layered soundscapes, the album transcended the boundaries of raw aggression and satanic imagery commonly associated with black metal. It showcased the potential of black metal as a vehicle for exploring profound philosophical and existential themes, setting a high standard for other bands to aspire to.

‘MoRT,’ an acronym for “Metamorphosis of Realistic Theories,” is the fifth full-length album by Blut Aus Nord, released on October 23rd, 2006 through Candlelight Records. This album represents a further evolution in the band’s sound, pushing the boundaries of black metal into even more experimental and avant-garde territory.

‘Odinist: The Destruction of Reason by Illumination’ is the sixth full-length album by Blut Aus Nord, released on May 14th, 2007. This album marks a significant point in the band’s discography, as it showcases a blend of their raw black metal roots and the experimental, avant-garde approach that they would further explore in their subsequent releases.

‘Memoria Vetusta II: Dialogue with the Stars,’ released on February 23rd, 2009, serves as the successor to ‘Memoria Vetusta I: Fathers of the Icy Age.’ While the initial installment of ‘Memoria Vetusta’ saw the band incorporating melodic and atmospheric elements into their sound, ‘Memoria Vetusta II’ takes this approach to new heights.

Blut Aus Nord’s experimentation reached new heights with the ‘777’ trilogy, consisting of ‘Sect(s),’ ‘The Desanctification,’ and ‘Cosmosophy.’ These albums saw the band incorporating industrial and electronic elements into their sound, creating a unique blend of black metal and avant-garde music. The trilogy was met with critical acclaim, further establishing Blut Aus Nord’s reputation as innovators within the black metal genre.

In recent years, Blut Aus Nord has continued to push the boundaries of black metal, with albums like ‘Deus Salutis Meæ’ and ‘Hallucinogen’ further exploring avant-garde and psychedelic elements. Despite the band’s ever-evolving sound, their music remains rooted in black metal, with Vindsval’s distinctive guitar work and harsh vocals serving as a constant thread throughout their discography.

‘Disharmonium – Undreamable Abysses,’ released on May 20th, 2022, and ‘Lovecraftian Echoes,’ released on September 30th, 2022, likely continue the band’s evolution in sound, incorporating more complex song structures and melodic elements. Given the titles, it is possible that these albums delve into themes of existential dread and cosmic horror, which are common in Lovecraftian literature. The music might use dissonant harmonies, unconventional song structures, and atmospheric soundscapes to evoke a sense of unease and insignificance in the face of the unknown, much like Lovecraft’s stories.

As for ‘Disharmonium – Nahab,’ the title suggests a possible exploration of Middle Eastern themes or sounds. “Nahab” could be a reference to the Arabic word for “eagle,” suggesting themes of freedom, power, and transcendence. Musically, this could translate to the use of Middle Eastern scales or instruments, complex rhythmic structures, and soaring melodies. However, it is also possible that the title does not have any specific meaning, and is simply a combination of words that sound interesting together. Blut aus Nord have a history of using cryptic and ambiguous titles for their albums, so it is difficult to say for sure what the title of ‘Disharmonium – Nahab’ means.

The band’s newest album, ‘Disharmonium – Nahab,’ is a collection of six new tracks that delve into the monstrous and nightmarish realms of H.P. Lovecraft. The first track, ‘Nahab,’ is a hypnotic blend of aggressive and ominous tones, showcasing the band’s ability to break down barriers of sound and genre. The band employs buzzing guitar arrangements, eerie melodies, ritualistic chants, and deep growling sounds to create a vivid sonic representation of Lovecraft’s shadow-horrors. The album is set to be released on various formats, including CD, vinyl, tape, and digital, on August 25th through Debemur Morti Productions.

Disharmonium – Nahab’ is influenced solely by the band’s own extensive oeuvre, and compared to their recent Lovecraftian explorations, it features an increased presence of deranged vocal mania. The eerie dynamics are more fully realized, the band’s unmistakable melodic power is amplified, and the guitars, lower-slung for extra resonance, flow in tandem with splendidly lurching grooves, creating a Stygian wooze-tsunami.

The band has already unveiled a new single, ‘That Cannot Be Dreamed,’ which is a tantalizing glimpse into the slightly terrifying musical journey that awaits listeners. The record was meticulously crafted by Blut Aus Nord’s Vindsval at Earthsound Studio, with mastering done by Bruno Varea at Upload Studio. The cover artwork and layout, designed by Maciej Kamuda, further enhance the album’s eerie aesthetic.

Indeed, Blut Aus Nord’s groundbreaking approach to black metal has left a lasting impact on the genre. Through their willingness to push boundaries and their incorporation of diverse influences, they have expanded the horizons of what black metal can encompass. Their innovative soundscapes and experimental nature have served as an inspiration for a new generation of bands, encouraging them to explore and experiment within the genre. Blut Aus Nord’s legacy as genre pioneers continues to resonate, shaping the future of black metal.

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