Only a damned fool would accept any consensus of the ego-death as a calculable, repeatable experience often portrayed today as harmful or irresponsible practicum in the hands of witlessly competitive drone-minded adult children. The disconnect from the paradigm of the expected, the shared, and the feigned witness needed for validation is proof that said disconnection from the animus held any meaning or purpose. The mind fought its way back to servitude and the manufactured ‘self’, a consciousness reinforced by screaming babes in their own silly-assed dreamland of trust-funded drug addictions and colicky electronic music traditions. There is no return from a guided exodus of the ‘self’, erase it and celebrate that you’d -never- deign to remember the very young-old foolishness bestowed upon you by instinct and the stroking that expectation provides. Peer into the naked, narrowing seedling of the mind and yank it hungrily until a satiating paradigm is found: Is ‘Hallucinogen’, this thirteenth full-length from French avant-entheogenic black metal band Blut Aus Nord, a righteous rebirth of new forms and old gifts? Is there yet a way forward for a project that’d mined every innovation along the way into a decisive triad of trilogies? Or, are these legendary stage names experiencing a psychotic break for the sake of writhing beneath the weight of an impossibly dense and stationed body of work. As it turns out the answer(s) to each question are as personal as the ego-death itself, but a consensus is never necessary in the vast swaying limbs of ‘Hallucinogen’, an album as feral and ecstatically free as the maenads themselves.
What signifies the purification of the mind when all parameters are deleted from senses long removed from societal compression? Is it the very quality of the dirt, the detritus and shit of the Earth that fills our pulsing stomachs? That food-borne richness fails the scheming, over-populated laze of man anymore, only our poisons grows stronger. Would it then make great sense to carve pillars in tomb-like monument to the minds of the malnourished and sickening generations resultant with melodious craft, to soothe the aforementioned inborn colic? It certainly colors a very different vision of psychedelic black metal than we’ve seen from bigger names such as the space rock born Oranssi Pazuzu, the operatic ‘weird for the sake of weird’ luminescence of A Forest of Stars, or the scathingly brutal horror of Wormlust. Blut Aus Nord reshape their vision towards the atmospheric and flippantly directional melodic black metal of their ‘Memoria Vetusiae’ trilogy before quickly releasing all comparable constraints and pulling out a drooling neon palette on ‘Hallucinogen’.
Adorned with chorales and lofty lead guitar runs, ‘Hallucinogen’ is shaped by post-rock epithets and emotion-derived movements a la Yellow Eyes or certain Rhinocervs releases but, there is a distinct ‘rock guitar’ actor providing the leading voice for this renewal of Blut Aus Nord. That narrator is somehow even more ‘outside the box’ than the many psychedelic neighbors they now incorporate with. The closest cousin to ‘Hallucinogen’ is probably Jordablod‘s underrated ‘Upon My Cremation Pyre‘ but even that is yet a world apart in tone, structure and performance; It is a familiar and sometimes typically achieved atmospheric black metal rendering at face value but, the greater pageantry of ‘Hallucinogen’ achieves its own endearing, boisterous glow as new ventures expand within the analytical mind. Stoner metal guitar solos replace dissonant calls from the abyss, heavy rock drumming stomps along in place of industrial-lite black metallic gallops and if this is to be the new Blut Aus Nord I am at least comforted by the relatively ‘complete’ transformation of their sound; They couldn’t be accused of half-assing it. Change is art in and of itself, to redirect expectations and reinvent a well-regarded voice is a great undertaking that few artists survive but the final piece of the event is the most important: Is this good music?
The short answer is that decision will depend upon your station within the spheres of interest that align the post-black, atmospheric black, and atmospheric/melodic black metal movements exclusively. The ‘hooks’ within come in (sometimes redundant) ‘rock’ influenced guitar solos and the economy of feeling is expressed by slickly post-black metal guitar movements which are decidedly not ‘heavy’ but feverishly melodic. The heaviness of the experience comes by way of faster-paced drum performances and often rock-heroic lead guitars. As a melodic black metal fan I did appreciate the more majestically inclined cinema offered by the guitar leads but, they were not always placed at meaningful points of impact; Intermittent chorales are the only vocal performances that amount to any sort of musical statement, further suggesting the cinematic post-rock influenced nature of ‘Hallucinogen’ and straying from any truly ‘obvious’ notions of psychedelia on record. Melodic black metal of the space-faring variety is rarely achieved so loftily and perhaps Blut Aus Nord‘s own creation trips the light too fantastically in this regard, a lack of memorable hooks does persist. A great deal of consideration will have to be given to the cinematic value of this Blut Aus Nord record before it can be digested alongside the rest of their discography. I appreciated this records left-field boldness and I’d venture ‘Hallucinogen’ is accessible enough to convert many amongst the masses. High recommendation. For preview purposes I’d suggest starting with opener “Nomos Nebuleam” as the most carefully considered piece on the album, it attempts to communicate the ambition of the entire record across a little over eight minutes and I’d say “Mahagma” will prove one of the more gripping moments of the full listen over time.
Curling among the incensed. 4.25/5.0
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