Trilogies are always a tightrope walk. All too often, artists start off running, throwing down their best material as they set the stage for a revolutionary, revelatory trilogy. After that first album, though, the musicians start to wobble a little, and the second release is rarely compelling enough to warrant interest in the trilogy’s conclusion. One-man band Blut Aus Nord’s ambitious 777 Trilogy is the rare exception.

2011’s pair of releases, Sect(s) and Desantification, were intriguing collections of gnarled dissonance and waves of noise, the former dedicating itself to heavy atonal atmospheres, while the latter introduced more melodic themes amid the chaos. Cosmosophy is the final piece of the puzzle, a sprawling emotional component that fits perfectly into the last slot. The previous two releases exemplified the ostensible evil of black metal, but this final chapter thoroughly warps our perspective of that evil. It completes Blut Aus Nord’s masterful depiction of his art from one end of the spectrum to the other, from coldest, desolate despair to triumphant, empowering hope. It’s the cohesive combination of such simultaneous contrastive elements that makes Cosmosophy resonate with each listen.

Sole band member Vinsdval’s clean and even operatic vocals dominate over traditional harsh ones. These are neither the half-hearted clean vocals that have previously appeared in the black metal genre, nor the artificially sweetened croonings of metalcore. These vocals drip molasses — the’re natural, and boast a dark, rich flow. What harsh vocals the album does contain are often muffled or distorted, but somehow, they’re still just as powerful.

This sonorous quality is mirrored in the musical atmospheres Blut Aus Nord excels at creating; the “Epitome” series fills the listener with a powerful peace even in the songs’ coarse, melancholic passages. Cosmosophy preserves the qualities we find most compelling in black metal – yearning, desperation, apprehension, and solitude. Whether it’s expressed as a skeletal march or a depraved rumble of bass and eerie (dis)harmony, nearly every track carries its own species of pure black emotion. This doesn’t stop the release from maintaining a struggling-yet-distinct positivity that lingers behind the sparse instrumentation. “Epitome XVII” brings Alcest to mind, but it doesn’t feel childlike or delicate, the way that band sometimes does. Instead, it’s a hauntingly beautiful and unexpectedly melodic anthem of perseverance whose second half wouldn’t feel out of place as a club track.

The continued presence of electronic influence aids Vindsval in establishing his intriguing sound without threatening the validity of its black metal roots. Beats drive each song’s narrative forward as much as riff-based themes do; “Epitomes XV” and “XVII” are influenced by Four Tet as much as Darkthrone. It becomes hard to tell where beat ends and riff begins.

But more importantly, when we’re listening to Cosmosophy, we’re not making the distinction. This is music which truly transcends labels; it does not work within any mold and ignores the slightest wisps of pretension, blending seemingly impossible stylings in ways that still sound good. Attempting to pigeonhole the band will undoubtedly prove fruitless. It doesn’t really matter what you call it, anyway, since Blut Aus Nord has proven his ability in blackened metal, industrialized metal, and everything in between.

(4.5 horns out of 5)


Blut Aus Nord’s Monolith comes out October 9th. You can stream the track to “Born Anew” here, and pre-order the album here.

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