Blut Aus Nord, "Odinist"
Blut Aus Nord
Blut Aus Nord, "Odinist"

After confounding the black metal world (in a good way) with ‘The Work Which Transforms God’ in 2003, France’s Blut Aus Nord proceeded to confound once again (this time in a not so good way) with ‘MoRT’. Both albums were merciless slabs of atonal misery, but something about ‘MoRT’s industrial lurching just didn’t click with some listeners. Evidently, that record wasn’t much easier for the band to make than it was for us to hear, and on, ‘Odinist: Deconstruction of Reason By Illumination’, BAN intended to return to more traditionally ‘metallic’ songwriting. Some interpreted this to mean “return to form” and eagerly anticipated this reclusive group climbing back to the vaunted heights they enjoyed in 2003.

Frankly, though, when listening to ‘Odinist’, one has to wonder whether ‘The Work…’ wasn’t the band’s zenith after all. ‘Odinist’ is a relatively straightforward album—the most direct in years, in fact—but while this may help them move beyond ‘MoRT’s challenges, it also strips them of elements vital to their success. However industrial and frigid past albums were, they all had human tics and idiosyncrasies that the audience could identify with. The agonizing layers ‘The Work…’, the piercing ‘Ultima Thulée’, etc. This doesn’t mean to say they were more relaxing to listen to; to the contrary, being keyed into music that dejected and bitter is an exhaustive, consuming experience.

With ‘Odinist’, that connection between audience and artist just isn’t very strong. To be sure, some some passages are able to evoke the eldritch eeriness so characteristic of BAN (particular examples being found on the title track and closer), most often with melodies of higher pitches. For the most part, however, ‘Odinist’ tends to meander about in the middle frequencies with mid-paced riffs of moderate vigor backing adequately harsh vocals in a tepid mix. In short—‘Odinist’ is a study of mediocrity, neither too harsh nor too mild, neither lofty nor base, neither aggressive nor passive.

Calling ‘Odinist’ a disappointment feels a little like needless ‘Kill Your Idols’ bloviation, but the album’s underwhelming impression defies rationalization. Indeed, one can’t help wondering whether we were a little too hasty making such a big fuss after BAN hit the international stage with ‘The Work…’. The band’s early releases still enjoy nearly unanimous acclaim (from the relatively few who’ve heard them), but perhaps we should examine their recent body of work with a more critical ear.