Upon the arrival of each new Blut Aus Nord album there’s a moment of questioning. What are we getting this time? Is it the industrial tinges fueled the maelstrom of The Work Which Transforms God? The progressive leanings of the band’s 777 trilogy of albums? Or the lean and mean traditional blasts of the Memoria Tretusta series? Unsurprisingly, the answer is something different, and the results in new album Deus Salutis Meæ are a bit of a mixed bag.
There’s always been a restlessness to the music the French black metal unit has constructed, a need to remove itself from the trappings of traditional sounds and lyrical concepts. As a result each album, despite its path, never seems to elicit an immediate response, instead requiring a few listens to absorb and find identifiable tethers to what Vindsval and co. are attempting. Excepting the more straightforward Memoria Vetusta III, most of the band’s recent output emphasizes a queasy sense of motion and atmosphere over traditional riffing. And while this sense of atmosphere and impending darkness has been a trademark of most of their albums since debut Ultima Thulée in 1995, Deus Salutis Meæ feels mostly smothered by the mix of industrial doom and black metal. The impending darkness is there, but for most of the album it feels largely like a lack of direction rather than scrupulous intent, something their previous split with Ævangelist was able to avoid.
It starts out well, though. After the brief ambient noise intro of “δημιουργός” things kick off proper with “Chorea Macchabeorum” with a great steady riff that wades underneath a harsh air of reverberating cymbal hits and moaning vocals. There’s a sense of escalation and release, the air still alive with hiss before diving back into the storm. “Impius” works at a more furious pace before settling into a lurching cadence as guitars and keyboards rise out of the murk and descend again. After another brief interlude (more noise than anything else) “Apostasis” takes a similar approach to its predessesor.
And that’s ultimately the issue. After five tracks of undulating mechanical doom and murk the thread holding it together kind of runs out. There’s not a lot to hold onto, despite the albums relatively short run time. That sense of queasiness is certainly there in spades, but unlike more traditional avenues of doom where the length and repetition hook you in and take you for the trip, here it tends to either push you away or worse: cause you to lose interest. Which is a shame because there are moments like the hook at the end of “Abisme” that are inventive and captivating in the mix, but I don’t know how likely I am to make that far on a (theoretical) future list.
Is this then a failure? Not really: it might be exactly the experience the band intended, who knows? Your mileage may vary on it as well – something like this might be exactly what you need to mirror your current state of mind. To these ears it sounds like after a great string of records Deus Salutis Meæ sees Blut Aus Nord wandering a path instead of forging it, and we’ll have to wait and see if what happens when they return.