Mixtarum Metallum #3: The End Is Nigh. Almost.

The end is nigh, with the apocalypse looming ever closer. Still, let’s not let that put us off the abundant joys of heavy metal, steely hard rock and genre-bending artisans of the loud and the furious, who, as it happens, will provide the perfect soundtrack as we are collectively smitten from this earth. Far be it from us here at Mixtarum Metallum to fear the reaper, so we’ve gathered together another few months of raucous riffs and thunderous reverberations to celebrate our impending doom. And keep a look out for next month’s collection too, where we’ll be plucking our choices from subterranean vaults, oddball spheres and outlandish realms as we take a look at some of the very best deep underground and tangential metal releases from 2012 in the lead up to PopMatters’ end of year best metal list (where writers from near and far meet to do battle over the annual top 20).

 

Gallows: Gallows

Self-titling a record usually happens when a band feels the need to make a grand statement regarding their true identity. But when a band eponymously titles their third album after parting ways with their firebrand singer, such a move could be coined a statement of unity and a definite declaration of intent. Losing a frontman the calibre of Frank Carter would be enough to buckle any band. Carter’s enigmatic — bordering on arrogant — performances (on record and live) gave Gallows a quality distinguishable from the rest of the UK hardcore/punk scene, and his Cockney scream and “fuck you” persona made Gallows sound real, and to a certain degree, dangerous. Since his departure, the remaining members of Gallows have refused to roll over and die — recruiting vocalist Wade MacNeill from the smouldering ashes of Alexisonfire, and after a snapshot EP, serving to us on a bloody platter: the best British hardcore punk album of the year. Gallows is rife with unquenchable determination, and surprisingly, is more intense than the Frank Carter led albums that preceded it. It plays out like a hungry debut, and in many ways it is, with Gallows desperate to prove their worth and relevance, and succeeding because of riotous songs crafted with razor sharp conviction. — Dean Brown

 

Krallice: Years Past Matter

Years Past Matter, the latest multifaceted mind-bending expedition from New York City’s avant-black metal troupe Krallice, is spilling over with meticulously composed tracks (cryptically titled “IIIIIII” to “IIIIIIIIIIII”). Guitarists Mick Barr and Colin Marston’s virtuoso journeying proceeds unabated, their entangled riffing resetting the polyrhythmic gymnastics bar once again. Along with Lev Weinstein’s dexterous percussion, and bassist Nicholas McMaster’s rumbling undercurrent, Krallice’s cityscape black metal is dissonant and hard-hearted, like a crumbling tower block, yet as affecting as dawn rays catching on its broken windows. Four albums in and Krallice is still evolving. Constructing songs full of precipitous swerves, their allure is based in no small part around their unpredictability and the hypnotic impulse to deconstruct fractions and decipher the existential while you listen. Years Past Matter is filled with atmospheric, surging tremolo maelstroms, with all the mathematic exactness culminating in the 16-minute, “IIIIIIIIIIII”. The song, more than any of the band’s others, crystallizes Krallice’s ability to exploit ingeniously structured complexity and raw emotive eloquence, heaping ecstasy upon awe till its radiant finale. The search for superlatives to describe Krallice’s oeuvre begins anew. — Craig Hayes

 

The Chariot: One Wing

Long Live — the fourth record from frenzied hardcore proponents the Chariot — saw the band produce what was the apex of their career. It was an album packed to the hilt with sudden bursts of cathartic anger and experimentation. Their latest record, One Wing, closely follows suit and plays out like a companion piece: creating a place where deafening feedback is used as a weapon just as much as the angular chaos of hardcore and the impassioned screams of sole original member Josh Scogin. Such polluted emissions are heard best on the likes of “Forgot”, “Not”, and “Tongues”, but it’s the songs that move past the typical redlined blowouts that really bring this album to life. The prominent use of piano on “Your” and “Speak” establishes an interesting dynamic, “It” shows the band’s increased fondness for settling into bass-heavy grooves, and “First” may be the best song they’ve ever written: sounding like a rabid version of In Utero-era Nirvana before opening up into a western romp replete with trumpets, marching beats, and guitars that have more in common with the Shadows than Deadguy. It is daring and it works. And the same could be said for the Chariot’s career thus far. — DB

 

Vilipend: Inamorata

Toronto, Canada-based Vilipend spit out a vitriolic blend of metal, hardcore and sludge, slathered with the atonality and stop/start of a little old school Amp-Rep and Dischord noise. Inamorata is angry, propulsive and impressively passionate — vocalist Chris Gramlich‘s throat-shredding snarls and growls convey his pain and frustrations in a palpable, powerful purge. “To Impede the Healing Process”, “Cutting Heartstrings [Erosion]” and “Farewell Cruel Girl (Apnea)” are highlights — fearless, emotionally naked and razor-sharp dirges, of which there are many within. The band trades hardcore and metal back and forth with pugnacious aplomb, with guitarist Derek Del Vecchio wrangling warped notes, and providing endless icy, discordant sections, à la the fiercest Fugazi jangles meeting Buzzov•en in parts. There’s no doubting the band’s fervency, and drummer Adam McGillivray’s fills and flourishes are particularly impressive. On “The Thin Red Line Between Salvation and Damnation” a thicker mix may have increased his impact — and that of the guitar dropping in — but minor sonic quibbles aside, the aggression and clanging, crashing and harsh attack of Inamorata is indisputable. Its rawness (and resulting causticity) means all the seething rancor and hostility is right up front, exactly where it should be. Bring on full-length #2. — CH

 

Katatonia: Dead End Kings

During their doom-death days and throughout their gradual bloom into mournful metal flag- bearers, Katatonia’s constants — Anders Nyström and Jonas Renske — have made wallowing in the dark corners of your own psyche quite therapeutic. This duo has shown great skill in turning negative emotion into heart-achingly beautiful music, and such feats are rare for a song-writing team who practise the alchemy of metal. Their ninth full-length,Dead End Kings, takes the unfortunate role of following Katatonia’s most successful release, and the insurmountable heights that Night Is the New Day scaled shadows the slow-burn of their latest release. Dead End Kings is the first Katatonia album to truly reveal the consequence of the Nyström and Renske moonlighting in the death metal band Bloodbath, and because of the duality, this collection of songs seldom reaches the metallic peaks of past songs such as “The Longest Year” and “Deliberation”, choosing instead to lay down amongst the subdued aspects of Katatonia’s sound. Renske’s voice still radiates for miles and Katatonia still do possess the ability to immerse you in melancholia and provide the means to elucidate and overcome the internal pain within. It’s just their overly reserved approach fails to surpass what has preceded it and the songs take their sweet time hitting your inner core. — DB

Oak Pantheon and more…

Far be it from us here at Mixtarum Metallum to fear the reaper, so we’ve gathered together another few months of raucous riffs and thunderous reverberations to celebrate our impending doom.

 

Oak Pantheon: From a Whisper

From a Whisper, the debut full-length from Minneapolis, Minnesota-based black metal duo Oak Pantheon, is one of the very best underground metal debuts from 2012. Drawing comparisons to legendary blackened folksters Agalloch, the band has received much well-deserved praise. From a Whisper is released on vital label Broken Limbs Recordings, and Oak Pantheon crafts evocative rustic suites, with neo-folk and luxuriant and woebegone black and post-metal passages interweaving throughout. Sami Sati and Tanner Swenson share guitars, bass and vocals (Swenson handles the drums), and working together the duo sculpts vistas of snowcapped mountains, misty dells and glacially fed rivers via their philosophic ponderings upon nature — be that human or Mother Earth’s. The album’s eight, expansive songs showcase exquisite songwriting, with songs as picturesque as they are melancholic, as intimate as they are epic and unfurling. Swells of gelid riffing breaks through gentile and contemplative acoustics on “We Will Tear Down the Gods” and “Roots of Man”. “Descend into Winter” and “It” bite with the promise of a sharp frost. Gorgeous Appalachian and medieval folk infuse “From a Whisper”, while “Aspen” launches into an enticing prog-metal jaunt. Harsh and cleanly sung vocals run thoughout — the latter lifting the mesmerizing harmonics, till a wintry storm smothers all. Highly recommended. — CH

 

Dysrhythmia: Test of Submission

Even though Dysrhythmia’s 2003 release, Pretest, is highly regarded, the band’s song-writing style was convoluted and technical for the sake of tying brains in knots. A cavalcade of riffs and rhythms trapped within the confines of complicated time-signatures will always be part and parcel of Dysrhythmia’s sound, but on the albums that followed Pretest, Kevin Hufnagel (guitars), Colin Marston (bass), and Jeff Eber (drums) began to realize the importance of actually writing songs and giving the listener something to latch onto — both of which are essential, especially when it comes to instrumental music. Test of Submission — their first release for the indomitable Profound Lore Records — is by far their best attempt at balancing technical musicianship with memorable arrangements. On this record, Dysrhythmia take disparate riffs playing complimentary patterns and match them to Jeff Eber’s busy jazz rhythms, all while working within the confines of a theme: plenty of variations, anchored by sections that repeat. This technique results in Dysrhythmia’s most inviting work yet. Each song is well constructed and the non-linear sections avoid confusion without surrendering any musical complexity. Test of Submission is a must for anyone interested in intelligent, intricate and inventive instrumental music. — DB

 

Ufomammut: Oro: Opus Alter

Oro: Opus Alter is the second and final chapter in the massive 94-minute conceptual epic begun by Italian doom and psych metal sorcerers Ufomammut back in April with the release of, Oro: Opus Primum. Oro: Opus Alter stretches out — its cosmic tendrils combining an esoteric narrative of alchemical endeavors with monumental stoner grooves and tripped-out, sonorous metal. Oro: Opus Alter is tighter and a leaner than its predecessor, more direct and aggressive in amplifying pummel over enigmatic pondering, although the band’s characteristic psychedelic warbles and contortions still send the songs spiraling off into polychromatic realms. From album opener “Oroborus” to monstrously heavy closer “Deityrant”, thick and churning furrows of lurching doom mix with wild laboratory experiments, keeping the hallucinatory noise buzzing and boiling. And when things slow down on “Luxon”, those supernatural vibrations simmer with hermetic menace. Ufomammut’s aim with the Oro saga is for both albums to be played consecutively, the entire suite forming one mammoth track. Fans of the band will be familiar with its predilection for such challenging ventures, and all things considered, the Oro sequence is a triumph. With a continuous theme throughout, and an evolving nature that never loses sight of the volatile chemical reactions at its heart, Oro: Opus Alter makes for a stunning conclusion. — CH

 

Spiders: Flash Point

Spiders are not what you would class as “metal” and their inclusion, in what is ostensibly a metal round up, may ignite the killjoys. But haters to hell, this record begs to be heard! It is a rush of hard-driving rock ‘n’ roll released by the former home of Graveyard and the current resting place of Horisont, Troubled Horse, and Blues Pills — Swedish label Crusher Record. Spiders’ metal credentials come in the form of their guitarist John Hoyles, formerly of Witchcraft fame, as well as being a band worthy enough to play the metal Mecca that is Roadburn. But if further convincing is needed, this record is not for you. For those who have made it this far, delight awaits in the form of tasty guitar licks that have their roots planted in garage rock and blues, not to mention the sexy swagger of vocalist Ann-Sofie Hoyles who gives a cocksure performance throughout. From “Weekend Nights” to “Hang Man” — sounding like a garage rock version of a Motörhead song — through to the naturally cool duo of “Love Me” and “Loss & Trouble”, and onto the thrilling “Above The Sky”, Flash Point is thirty minutes of rockin’ bliss with the only negative being: it’s not long enough. — DB

 

Hellwell: Beyond the Boundaries of Sin

Hellwell is the new project from Manilla Road founder, guitarist and vocalist Mark ‘the Shark’ Shelton. Manilla Road has been plying stages since the late ’70s, mixing traditional North American metal with a dash of doom, and scrappy, back alley hard rock. The band is legendary, its fans fervent, and Manilla Road plus a very heavy measure of ’70s keyboards equals Hellwell. Like seemingly every Manilla Road release, the production on Beyond the Boundaries of Sin is bleeding raw — forget any polish to match its progressive mood, it’s a turbulent ride. Shelton and cohorts blend rough-shot metal with retro keyboards. Plenty of fairground and vintage horror jams comprise tracks early in the album, and the three-part “Acheronomicon” opus serves as an extended finale. “The Strange Case of Dr. Henry Howard Holmes” and “Keepers of the Devils Inn” make for hair-raising fun — Shelton’s vocals maintaining a wicked accent, and ample up-tempo riffing, squealing solos, and organ atmospherics ensuring the theatrics are layered on thick. The “Acheronomicon” trilogy feels closer in spirit to Manilla Road’s more epic tracks, with some compositionally dazzling sections — particularly on the hugely enjoyable grandiloquent gyrations of final track “Acheronomicon: III. End of Days”. Shelton has always favored purity over trends, and there’s no doubt he’s channeling some of the inspirations and influences that lie very close to his heart in an enthusiastic fashion on Beyond the Boundaries of Sin. Great, albeit choppy, fun.

CH

Cryptopsy and more…

Far be it from us here at Mixtarum Metallum to fear the reaper, so we’ve gathered together another few months of raucous riffs and thunderous reverberations to celebrate our impending doom.

 

Cryptopsy: Cryptopsy

Sometimes in life you take risks that backfire, but it’s how you bounce back from these mistakes that will determine your future success. In the case of legendary Canadian death metal band Cryptopsy, Flo & Co. have managed to successfully bounce back from the abomination that was The Unspoken King by mercifully eradicating the abhorrent clean vocals and the trend-hopping deathcore on this their self-titled album. Cryptopsy plays it safe, but such an approach was necessary in order to start rebuilding Cryptopsy’s legacy and regain fan confidence. The fact that former guitarist Jon Levasseur has also rejoined the fold is another positive, and his presence should spark curiosity and perk the ears of even the most dismayed fans. But such points are redundant without well written songs and Cryptopsy is contemporary technical death metal at its slickest; best heard on “Two Pound Torch”, “Red Skinned Scapegoat”, and “Amputated Enigma”. This album does not reach the unique brutality of landmark albums Blasphemy Made Flesh and None So Vile, but such feats were far from expected. Cryptopsy is just the sound of a lost band finally taking a major step down the nasty road to recovery. — DB

 

Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovell: Don’t Hear It… Fear It!

UK-based trio Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovell reeks of vintage rock, sweaty pubs and drunken late night reveries. Blues, psych, prog and proto-metal form the foundations of the band’s sound, with bands such as Budgie, Sir Lord Baltimore, Atomic Rooster, Dust, Black Sabbath, Blue Cheer and Buffalo clearly influencing its fuzzed-out, hard-rockin’ psychedelia. Like the best retro-rockers — Witchcraft, Uncle Acid and The Deadbeats, and Graveyard, to name but three — the Shovell (as they are affectionately known) work a dirty, flared groove to great effect. The gruff, cigarette-and-pint-worn vocals, and hefty, scorching riffs of “Mark of the Beast”, “Devil’s Island” and “Killer Kane” make for brash, hard-kicking analog blow-outs (with excellent turbo-charged leads). The band stretches out on “Red Admiral Black Sunrise” and “Scratchin’ and Sniffin'”, working in ample feedback and distortion to keep that early ’70s disposition dripping, and plenty of MC5 power chords and early Status Quo tumbling riffs to meld the proto-metal to proto-punk throughout. The Shovell delivers a rousing homage to classic hard and psychedelic rock, but guitarist/vocalist Johnny Redfern, bassist/vocalist Louis Wiggett and drummer Bill Darlington go beyond mere replication, digging for inspiration from obscure corners. Final track “Bean Stew” offers a zigzagging and intense explosion of recondite psych and hard rock, calling to mind weird and wired cult rock at its finest. Don’t Hear It… Fear It! is gloriously diverting, with its abundant authenticity and lo-fi lacerations adding another significant voice to the vintage hard rock pool. — CH

 

Down: The Purple EP

The mighty Down return with the first in a series of four EPs to be released over the next twelve months. The Purple EP — the long awaited follow up to Down III: Over The Under — burns the same way as their debut, with Down settling themselves comfortably in a hotbox of traditional doom à la Black Sabbath, Saint Vitus, Trouble, and Candlemass, for the entirety of its run time. There is no experimentation here — presumably this will be for future EPs — instead you get those trademark sludge riffs of Keenan and Weinstein battling with a swinging rhythm section of Bowers and new finger pickin’ bassist Pat Bruders (who has replaced Rex Brown). And then of course there’s the unmistakeable Philip H. Anselmo leading the charge over of the raucous grooves of “Witchtripper”, the Vitus-worthy downer of “Open Coffins”, and appearing as the prophet of doom on “The Curse”. The Purple EP leaves the impression that these lifers can produce rock-steady jams the quality of “Levitation” and “Misfortune Teller” with instinctual ease. It will be interesting to see just how far out of their comfort zone Down push themselves on the remaining EPs, but while we wait to hear what else is in store, these six songs will more than satiate fans of Down and doom in general. — DB

 

Winterfylleth: The Threnody of Triumph

Winterfylleth’s last album, 2010’s The Mercian Sphere, was a consummate example of the continuing ascendance of UK black metal bands celebrating pagan and ancient ideologies over recent years. Winterfylleth’s aesthetic redirects the might of Scandinavian second wave black metal to celebrate “England’s historical stories, folklore, landscapes and ancestral past”. Threnody of Triumph is a superb combination of traditional black metal, scenic post-metal and it harnesses a strain of stirring folk that fans of Drudkh will recognize. Heart-swelling crescendos masterfully evoke fog-laden Albion myths, and haunting, dynamic melodies are ever-present. The interweaving of skillfully composed woodland and pastoral acoustic passages with atmospheric black metal outbursts on “The Glorious Plain” and “the Swart Raven” are particularly imposing. The darker, old school blastbeat and tremolo barrages of “The Threnody of Triumph” and “The Fate of Souls After Death” sound as commanding as the band’s envisioning of bygone battles filled with heroes and villains. The intricate, painstaking layering of pitiless riffing over harmonic build-ups throughout allows the superb, often lush, production to shine. The Threnody of Triumph is a crucial release from England’s extreme metal sphere. Unfolding with storied and musical depth with each repeated listen, its density, magnitude and gravity should, by all rights, see Winterfylleth reap even further acclaim. — CH

 

As I Lay Dying: Awakened

As I Lay Dying has managed to survive the maligned metalcore movement because of the work ethic of band leader Tim Lambesis. Under his captaincy this band has produced consistent metalcore records that hold tight the traits of the genre: screamed vocals, soul slaughtering twin guitars, percussive bombardments and predictable breakdowns. As expected their sixth studio album Awakened does not veer left field, nor does it push what they have already achieved any further. Much like their 2010 release — The Powerless RiseAwakened over relies on bassist Josh Gilbert’s clean chorus’ in an effort to distract from Tim Lambesis’ lack of personality, and his vocal hooks are not strong enough to warrant the amount of tracks they saturate. Because of this Awakened fails to match the ferocity of 2007’s An Ocean Between Us, and even though guitarists Nick Hipa and Phil Sgrosso have great chemistry and Jordan Mancino continues to be one of the most underappreciated drummers in metal, this record repeats the same ideas that have been flogged to death by As I Lay Dying for thirteen years. Those who have enjoyed everything this band has released will certainly find plenty of positives here. On the other hand, those craving progression from their metal bands will agree that predictability should be the eighth deadliest sin. — DB

Blue Pills and more…

Far be it from us here at Mixtarum Metallum to fear the reaper, so we’ve gathered together another few months of raucous riffs and thunderous reverberations to celebrate our impending doom.

 

Blue Pills — Bliss

Bliss, the debut EP from Swedish/American/French rockers Blue Pills is a riot of hard psych and blues-soaked riffs, heaving bass and percussion, and the powerful vocals of Elin Larsson. Formed in late 2011, and including ex-members of Radio Moscow, Blue Pills’s first EP explodes with a concentrated blast of combustible retrospective rock — think Jimi Hendrix, Black Sabbath, Cream and Sweden’s own ’70s acid-rock overlords, November. Scrappy opener “Bliss” is a howling wah-wah and reverb frolic. “Astralplane” is a grinding blues tempest — with distortion-capped soloing bringing the hard rock grit, and Larsson’s voice bringing the fevered passion. “Devil Man” kicks off with isolated bellowing from Larsson, before dropping into an aggressive stomp as the band follows through with a razor-edged jam. Final track “Little Sun” begins with a gentile intro before roaring out on a scorching, echo-filled solo. That’s it: 15-minutes of raw, instinctual hard rock, dosed with proto-metal and that visceral, deft instrumentation that Sweden-based retro rockers do so very well. As a taster of what’s to come on the band’s full-length debut, the rowdy songwriting is striking, drenched in the energy and ambience of loose ’70s gutter and hard rock. However, the key here is Larsson’s soulful, often rough-edged voice. Whether she’s howling like a Banshee, susurrus and poignant, or just rip-roaring with intoxicating blues — her vocals seal the authenticity. A hundred percent proof and proudly vintage. — CH

 

The Devin Townsend Project: Epicloud

Since retiring the devastating Strapping Young Lad, Devin Townsend has managed to free himself from all expectations and limitations — a rare accomplishment for a musician in this day and age. His latest creation, Epicloud, is the fifth record released under the banner of The Devin Townsend Project in four years. Epicloud brings together the individual sounds explored on the previous four album series, and because of this sonic amalgamation, each song comes bearing its own distinct personality: “Effervescent” is a memorable jingle that precedes the stunning pop-metal of “True North”; “Lucky Animals” and “Liberation” are both addictive, hook-heavy tunes — the former sounding quite theatrical; “Where We Belong” and “Divine” takes us down the reflective Ghost route; while the metallic side of Townsend’s brain is triggered on “Kingdom”, “Grace”, and “More” — Anneke van Giersbergen’s vocals adding wonders to the layered bombast of these songs, as well as the massive album peak “Hold On” — a positive anthem that climbs poignant heights. As the finale “Angel” floats away it is evident that this record contains more musical ideas than most musicians could muster in a life-time. Epicloud has been expertly conceived and is another magnificent addition to the intimidating discography of one of the most prolific, progressive musicians the world has ever heard. — DB

 

Indesinence — Vessels of Light and Decay

UK-based doom/death quartet Indesinence isn’t the most prolific band, Vessels of Light and Decay being its first full-length album in six years, only its second since forming in 2001. Still, quality over quantity every time, and Vessels of Light and Decay is a phenomenally resonant and heavy release (no surprise to find it’s recorded/mixed by doom icon Greg Chandler from Esoteric — who also provides guest vocals — and mastered by James Plotkin). Indesinence’s interfusion of death metal’s guttural, pulverizing brutality with heartbreaking sepulture doom calls to mind formative UK doom acts such as Paradise Lost and My Dying Bride, but the band is not mimicking the past. Epic-length tracks are the norm, Indesinence having a staggering amount of woe to convey, and while the death/doom elements may be familiar, the band’s ability to arrange and communicate its morbid tales with such emotive forcefulness puts them on a par with highly-respected gloom merchants, and label-mates, Evoken. “Paradigms”, “Vanished is the Haze” and “Fade (Further Beyond)” are extraordinary. Indesinence paints mournful, expressive portraits; each song explores different, though correspondingly cloud-covered scenery, with downtempo crawls and brooding riffs transforming into blistering chapel fires. The rhythmic pacing of Vessels of Light and Decay is flawless, and best evidenced on the remarkable closer “Unveiled”, where the band’s gut-wrenching gracefulness is most fully illuminated. Vessels of Light and Decay is simply one of the most eloquent and powerful albums from the death/doom realm in 2012. — CH

 

Devil Sold His Soul: Empire of Light

With their 2007 debut — A Fragile Hope — Devil Sold His Soul arrived on the British metal scene already fully formed: combining sky-scanning post-rock with post-hardcore inspired by the likes of Deftones, Will Haven and Glassjaw, amongst others. It was close to the sound that Devil Sold His Soul band members explored during their previous project, Mahumodo, with Mehdi Safa of *shels. However, Devil Sold His Soul magnified what Mahumodo hinted at with greater emphasis on weighty incremental builds and devastating crescendos, as well as the addition of Ed Gibbs on vocals — who initially partnered versatile clean vocals with a blackened screech which transformed into a ruthless roar on their brilliant sophomore album Blessed and Cursed. Empire of Light is their third full-length album, and not for one moment does it betray the quality of their past output. If anything Empire of Light is probably more forceful than what has preceded it — the band foregoing the exhausting build-ups that can sometimes drain the life out of this kind of music. Instead Devil Sold His Soul focus on instrumental interplay that effortlessly cradles and releases tension — its impact paralyzing the listener in the same way as Envy’s Insomniac Doze — with Gibbs giving his most emotive performance to date. — DB

 

Blut Aus Nord: 777: Cosmosophy

Led by the deeply enigmatic Vindsval, French avant-garde black metal trio Blut Aus Nord operates in an eccentric and adventurous sphere entirely of its own making. The band’s latest album, 777: Cosmosophy, completes a trilogy begun with excellent releases in 2011 — 777: Sect(s) and 777: The Desanctification. Entirely befitting the band’s idiosyncrasy, 777: Cosmosophy contains the wholly unexpected — the final part of the trilogy being the band’s most serene and mysterious work yet. Windswept, corrosive songs make up the album, with dissonant industrial churns reminiscent of the band’s 2006 album, MoRT, being far more prevalent than skin-flaying metal. Spoken word and cleanly sung vocals on “Epitome XV” and “Epitome XVI” combine with elements of shoegaze, electronica, drone and post-punk, while “Epitome XVII” is, of all things, positively upbeat. 777: Cosmosophy is inventive and compelling, its overturning of expectations affirming Blut Aus Nord’s uncompromising artistic vision. The album has a prog-worthy sense of sumptuousness and reaches into black metal for its weight, but it’s in its layers of sound — where atmospheres are compacted and instruments warped — that Blut Aus Nord excels. The band has truly transcended orthodoxy here; the riffs are inky and diabolic but similarly accessible to the beautifully firmamental post-black-metal of fellow French artist Alcest. The 777 trilogy has ended on a serener but no less ambitious or compelling note. 777: Cosmosophy is an enrapturing and elaborate final act, an important reminder that black metal’s aesthetic now permeates far and wide — ever encroaching and forever indomitable. — CH

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