This will be the third time I’ve reviewed a full-length from Dorset duo Blut. Their prior outings, 2010’s Ritual and Ceremony and last year’s Grief and Incurable Pain, were hour-plus excursions into droning sonic torment, the two-piece’s amplified misanthropy brought to bear over the course of extended tracks like “Throne Ritual” and “Death.Mourning.Famine (2).” Their third album carries the band’s motto for its title, Drop Out and Kill, and arrives courtesy of Bubonic Productions (tape release on Major Destroyer). Like Grief and Incurable Pain (review here) and Ritual and Ceremony (review here), the latest outing finds the initials-only duo of S.M. (guitar, noise, drums, vocals) and N.B. (bass, noise, vocals) sonically caustic and abrasive to the point of stomach-turning physicality. To listen to Drop Out and Kill the whole way through is to affirm your ability to sustain punishment – Blut’s feedback-soaked lysergic darkness is encompassing and stabbing at the same time, like being closed into an iron maiden – but the album also takes some steps toward humanity. There is a picture of the band on the back of the CD, for example, to go along with the list of the album’s three songs, and Drop Out and Kill is the shortest of Blut’s full-lengths yet at 59 minutes. That doesn’t mean it’s not a work of ultimately perverted nastiness, just that there’s less of it than last time out. The drums in opener “Aeon Long Death/Alcoholic on Cloven Hoof” also might feel like some capitulation not toward accessibility – the notion is laughable – but at least to some idea of songcraft in a traditional sense. Of course, it doesn’t last, and everything past about 12:20 into the 28-minute track is given to the scathing feedback drone that’s become Blut’s calling card over the last several years. Still, the music prior to at least qualifies as such, and that’s saying something. The subsequent “Skulls.Coffins.Nails” (23:59) is even less friendly, but they close out with “Murder Hallucination (4 Track),” and at 7:27, its low-rumbling psychedelia is even nearer to discernible. Seven minutes? Hell, for Blut, that’s practically a radio hit.
In those moments, a comparison to Electric Wizard’s most unhinged moments is inevitable, but again, if Blut are veering in that direction, it’s only a part of their overall assault and soon enough swallowed whole by their deconstructed cruelties. The brief liner notes – in addition to cursing the Metal Archives, informing that N.B. and S.M. played through Selmer and Sound City amps and featuring a photo of a nude, sneering ‘70s blonde with a snake around her neck – urge the listener to, “play loud and kill yourself.” Not sure a departure from the “drop out and kill” sloganeering they’ve done all along, but worth noting in that volume does have a definite effect on the listening experience for these songs. Even the noisy drone at its most vicious sounds more textured played louder, and in the later moments of “Murder Hallucination (4 Track),” the samples from American Movie highlight the disturbing disaffection of the film within that film while also coming clearly through the murk and creeping horror of Blut’s psychedelia. The guitar at the end of that track, winding leads of laced smoke, are as close as Blut has ever come to melody, and clips from Fahrenheit 9/11 and others lead the way out from the chaos preceding, a kind of minimalism that answers back the samples that begin “Aeon Long Death/Alcoholic on Cloven Hoof” and “Skulls.Coffins.Nails.” Samples play a pretty large part in Blut’s approach overall, but “Aeon Long Death/Alcoholic on Cloven Hoof” is pretty quick to move into a verse of black metal screams offset by cleaner Ramesses-esque incantations. By then the swirl is established over the drums and bass, and though most of the remaining 26 minutes of the song are instrumental – the verse returns after six minutes for a brief appearance – first marching on that riff and then pulling it apart and examining the noisy guts inside, the effect and sense of structure remains throughout, even long after that structure is actually gone to fucked up solos, crashes and, of course, noise. It might be a last scream at after the 11-minute mark, or it might be a sampled screech, but either way, Blut are shortly to go full force into feedback and sustained distortion, so whatever it is, it’s very soon torn to shit.
“Skulls.Coffins.Nails” begins with a solid four and a half minutes of noise before a two-count on the bell of the ride cymbal launches an ultra-slow, vaguely-riffed progression that S.M. tops with a riff that somehow sound like distant war horns. They’re further back than N.B.’s bass – which is all-consuming by then; even the drums are shortly taken – but the effect is terrifying. Past nine minutes in, another riff emerges, and drums answer back, but this too is a momentary divergence into relative sanity, and the last nine of the song’s 24 minutes are a poisonous wash. The closer follows a similar pattern, and I’m left wondering if Blut have actually taken steps in the direction of songwriting on Drop Out and Kill or if I’ve just become desensitized to their monstrous approach over the past couple records. If that’s the case, then fine, but even if they have begun to experiment with “parts” as such, it’s worth noting that their music is still basically fit for no one’s ears. Listeners to whom Blut will appeal are a niche within a niche within a niche, and that’s no less true here than it was the first time I heard Ritual and Ceremony. They are a destructive force sonically, downright unpleasant and no less disturbing to hear than their artwork is to behold. Drop Out and Kill may be shorter, and it may or may not be more accessible (it’s like measuring shades of black), but it nonetheless remains a work of sludge extremity the likes of which few can match, taking SunnO))) drone to darker, more wretched places. It sounds like hyperbole, but the fact is that Blut are more extreme in what they do than more than 99 percent of the planet, and so it’s an extremely limited audience that’s going to be able to keep pace with them – for what it’s worth, I don’t count myself as being able to do so. There have been many times listening to Blut for this review and the ones for Grief and Incurable Pain and Ritual and Ceremony that I have to shut it off and step back for a minute to catch my breath. But what Blut do, they do on purpose, and it’s their intent that makes them so effective when their records are taken on for what they are. If Drop Out and Kill adds anything, it’s a sense of progression in the band’s sound and the notion that they’re not just about spite and misanthropy, but about the processes involved in conveying those things as well. It’s a big difference and as much as I live in dread of the day it arrives, I look forward to hearing how Blut carry it across on their next installment. Everything more fuckyou than everything else.
Tags: Blut, Bubonic Productions, Dorset, Major Destroyer Records, UK