While a large portion of fans will no doubt deny it, Black Metal has always gone through certain trends, providing a template shaping the majority of new bands' direction and resulting in a lot of similar sounding releases at any given time. Then again, there are bands who never seem to pay any attention to these trends, always carving their own path without any visible influence from their peers. The French ensemble BLUT AUS NORD have been among these elite few since their 1994 conception, and 15 years later it appears that they are still pushing the boundaries of the genre.
Even though their 2007 release, "Odinist", didn't cause much of a stir upon release, it was a juggernaut of crushing industrial-tinged Black Metal, cold and merciless as the grave. Never a band to rest on their past achievements, "Dialogue With The Stars" is a totally different beast, turning away from the heavy blows, instead transcending beyond the human sphere and turning towards another realm of essence. In other words, the cold wintery forests and Satan-worshiping clowns of Black Metal are nowhere in sight, and in their place we have a glorious and melodic collection of songs that barely fit under the constrictions of any particular genre.
To return to somewhat more earthly terms, "Dialogue With The Stars" is a feast for the ears, carefully adorned with epic riffs, beautiful melodies, and a sense of raw emotion that's become a rarity in modern Metal. It's memorable, at times wildly catchy, and above all unique in its spacy vastness. Every time you think a song has reached its climax, Vindsval takes it up another notch, further blowing the air out of the listener and reaching a new level of cosmic transcendence.
When the time comes for looking back at the greatest efforts of 2009, I'm convinced that BLUT AUS NORD will hold a spot amongst the very best. The many-headed hydra that is post-Black Metal has never sounded this good, and it makes me wonder how far this band can go when they keep upping the ante like this on every album.
(Online April 16, 2009)