Home > Music > Blut Aus Nord – Ultima Thulée (1995)

Blut Aus Nord – Ultima Thulée (1995)

Ultima_Thulee-Cover_front.jpgAn album straight out of the world of dreams (wait, you mean to say there’s only one?). As far as I know, Blut Aus Nord never fully recaptured the misty, ethereal, and otherworldly atmosphere of Ultima Thulée. Even the album’s immediate successor favors a more structured and conventionally musical approach. I don’t intend that to be a slight against Memoria Vetusta, which is a quality work in its own right and better executed in some ways, but if black metal was the key to unlocking the occult (and it isn’t; more on that after today’s review), this album and not its successor would almost certainly be the source of all spiritual power in the world.

Ultima Thulée, despite being the work of a French band, theoretically takes after the ‘Viking’ themed black metal of Scandinavia. Considering that the band’s from Normandy, that’s surprisingly appropriate. The mix is raw, trebly and windswept, but not to the point that it becomes unintelligible. Artificial keyboards play a significant role in shaping these songs, to the point where they even occasionally take precedence over the guitars. This is a pretty stereotypical sounding album – its genius is more in how these elements are forged into a cohesive whole. It’s hard to put an exact description on why, to be honest – if I had to summarize, I’d say that the dense mix is responsible for at least the dreamlike aesthetic.

It’s the songwriting, though, that really pushes this album into alien territory. Ultima Thulée‘s songs are mostly lengthy (although one synth interlude stops just short of four minutes) and ramble on, with transitions that I would probably reject on other albums. Here, though, I can suspend my disbelief, much like a vivid dream can proceed in a fashion that would come off as insane and nonsensical were I fully awake. Despite their odd turns, the songs are also backed up by a strong sense of consonant melody. While the band emphasizes this more on the next album, it’s still very important here, and it helps keep the album interesting where other approaches (like a more blatantly ambient form of songwriting) would probably fail. Other elements fade into the winter by comparison – while the other instrumentation is crucial to holding this album together, it’s the main riffs and leads that hold my attention the most.

I can’t guarantee that you will enjoy this album, since it does take some getting used to, but it is certainly a personal favorite. Maybe not scary enough for Halloween, but winter is fast approaching in the northern hemisphere…

Highlights: “The Plain of Ida”, “From Hlidskjalf”, “Till I Perceive Bifrost”

Remember how I mentioned that black metal was not the key to gaining occult powers? National Novel Writing Month begins tomorrow, and for the first time in my life I am participating. That’s all the spoilers you’re getting on my intended project for now. I expect to continue Invisible Blog in the mean time, but don’t be surprised if you see a greater portion of writing-related posts.


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