Evanescent Hallucinations, apart from being a great title for a black metal track, also happens to be, in part at least, a pretty good descriptor of Blut Aus Nord’s contribution to this mouth watering split EP. In some ways this could have turned out to be a fairly impenetrable foray into extremity. But the best splits work when two bands bounce off each other – and Codex Obscura Nomina sees Blut Aus Nord and Aevangelist seeping into each other in a way that provides new dimensions in both. I’ve tried a few times to hack into Blut Aus Nord’s back catalogue – and without success despite the band, on paper at least, being right up my street. But if this is anything to go by I need to make another concerted effort because the first four tracks of this album are black metal at its explorative best.
It’s definitely more what you might describe as Blut Aus Nord’s experimental side (Odinist, 777 – Cosmosophy etc) rather than their more classic black metal stuff (Memoria Vetusta I-III). From the outset the band prises open a sonic vortex that, as with all the best psychedelic black metal seems to manipulate time with its weird and distorted meanderings. The opening tack is at first deceptively loose in its rambling, shambling course splicing elements of industrial coarseness with ritualistic and avant-garde black metal – themes that continue throughout the 20 minutes or so of Blut Aus Nord’s contribution. The band’s four tracks combine into a single, unsettling black hole. Clattering and heaving like some grinning, demonic parade, Blut Aus Nord pull in sounds that Deathspell Omega fanatics will be pleased to hear but still manage to make this uplifting and evocative din sound like nothing and no one else. I feel like this is how I always wanted Blut Aus Nord to sound and I’ll be returning to discover what I’ve obviously previously missed in their output beyond the few shallow forays I’ve previously made. The arrangements and distorted chords of the final part Infra-Voices Ensemble crystalise into a driving, mid-paced track that shares qualities with darker, rhythmically driven electronic and techno rather than classic black metal. No wall-of-noise screaming black metal here – more a composition compressed, stretched and distorted into an abstract but addictive sound that so perfectly lends itself to an EP like this.
And just when you figured you’re getting on top of all this obsidian black and boundary-bashing metal stuff, along comes Aevangelist. Weirdly, and I’d like to think intentionally, the beginning of Aevangelist’s single 20 minute-plus descent into the next plane of where-the-fcuk-are-we almost imperceptibly takes off from where Blut Aus Nord leaves – perhaps a little crisper, tighter and everything else we’ve come to expect from this glittering example of absolute darkness. But this is certainly the more challenging of the two contributions by far – eschewing as it does the normal laws of musical physics. But, and I may be testing the boundaries of irony here, Aevangelist is in an almost mellow mood. By that I mean this feels less aggressively dark than their album last year, Enthrall to the Void of Bliss, which was nothing short of a Lovecraftian nightmare. But it’s even more unforgiving in a different way. The production feels like there has been an epidermic layer stripped away leaving you with the odd feeling that part of your brain may not be receiving on full channels here. It’s as if they’ve shifted even more completely into the realms of sheer noise territory while clinging onto the still beating heart of what makes black metal so black. Another total mind-fuck from Ævangelist, then, but I wonder if its going to be converting any new fans other than those who’ve already discovered the delights of their full-length releases and the likes of Mitochondrion, Leviathan or Portal.
Still, Ævangelist holds its end of the bargain up in so much as its contribution is not far off from what you might expect. It’s definitely the Blut Aus Nord stuff that tips the balance here, though, to make this an EP worth checking out and something that will drive me to make some further and more determined examination of their back catalogue in the future.
(8/10 Reverend Darkstanley)