It’s a bleak psychedelic dronefest and nobody’s invited when you press play on Blut‘s Drop Out and Kill tape. The UK duo of N.B. and S.M. have released pretty much everything they’ve done on cassette, and listening to the Major Destroyer Records release of this album, which was originally reviewed on CD, I can hear why. The band’s unremittingly extreme tin-can gnarl comes across even nastier through the analog compression, finding the Dorset-based outfit even more straddling the line between blackened lo-fi and stone-drone sludge, like Electric Wizard‘s misanthropy played at half speed somewhere down the block. Sometimes all you get it low-end rumble and malevolent echoing.
On headphones, with the volume up, the effect is even more grating. Blut‘s underlying drum groove is there — straightforward and slow — somehow managing to cut through a mountain of tonal lurch on opener “Aeon Long Death/Alcoholic on Cloven Hoof,” their anti-you-and-everything-else stance apparent from the very first second of the song. I said when I reviewed the CD that the band were probably unfit for just about any human ears, and I stand by that, since they push extreme sludge to what I consider new heights of fuckall. Whether or not one puts on Blut as the soundtrack to their sunny-day barbecue is irrelevant — they’re genuinely pushing the boundaries of what’s come before them and I consider Drop Out and Killlaudable just for that. That Blut have developed a clear sense of purpose over the last couple of years and releases like Grief and Incurable Pain(review here) and Ritual and Ceremony(review here) and turned spite into aesthetic is where I think they have most succeeded. The farther out they go, the less listenable they get, the better they become. They’re getting closer to (at least what I see as) their goals for the band.
If I’m overthinking it, well, I’m supposed to overthink it. Still, the foreboding drone of “Murder Hallucination” and “Skulls.Coffins.Nails” isn’t happening in a vacuum, and as much as Blut are casting off elements of traditional songwriting — verses, choruses, etc. — they are working in an established sonic sphere of extreme drone doom. Noise aficionados would probably hear Drop Out and Killand call it straightforward because it has guitar and bass, but when I put on this tape, I hear the roots laid down by SunnO))) and Sleep’s Dopesmokertaken to vicious, dark, new places. That Blut include a side-two cover of Boston outfit Nightstick‘s “Ultimatum” — they call it “Ultimatum (Yog-Sothoth)” — only demonstrates their awareness of their own lineage. It also evens up the sides and gives Drop Out and Killeven more horrifying audio, but yeah, the other thing too.
Fact is, whatever level you want to approach them at, Blut aren’t about to make it easy for you. What they’re going to do — on tape or any other format — is crash and drone and scream and emit some of the most fucked up noise I’ve ever heard. That’s their thing, and whether you hear it on CD or on cassette, if you consider yourself a fan of the sonically abrasive, you should probably hear it. Tapes have the advantage of being cheaper and sounding fucked up. That suits Blut well.
Posted in Reviews on September 25th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
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.
Lo-fi duo Blut make their home in fucked-up drone and doomed riffing, working hard to sound as inaccessible as possible at any given moment. This is completely on purpose. The band’s warped vision of psychedelic extremity feeds into an overall perspective that is disaffected and hinting at a core of cerebral violence. Such as it is, their motto, “Drop out and fucking kill,” fits them well.
Over the course of several cassette releases and two full-length CDs — those being the interrelated Ritual and Ceremony (2010, review here) and Grief and Incurable Pain (2011, review here) — the initials-only two-piece of bassist N.B. and drummer/guitarist/vocalist S.M. have inflicted upon unsuspecting (or possibly suspecting) ears a sound that is pure in its misanthropy and songs that range between excruciating and unlistenable. The two albums develop ideas one off the other, but there’s an undercurrent of cruelty that remains no matter what might be happening in any given five-minute stretch.
Wanting to find out just what it is that could be behind such utterly demented musicality, I figured it was time to hit up Blut for Six Dumb Questions. Below, S.M. (joined by N.B. for the last question) provides answers to some of Blut‘s drives and motives. Please enjoy.
1. How did the two of you get together and start the band? Did you know what you wanted the sound to be going into it? There’s so much mystery around the band, with just the initials being given for the two of you. What’s the reasoning behind keeping that info so sparse?
We met whilst playing in a black metal band and decided to start Blut as a side-project, the sound of the band comes from our obsession with records like Earth 2 and Nightstick’s Blotter, also bands like Brighter Death Now and Deadwood. The basic idea was a style of music with heavy passages of psychedelic noise and drone with some doom riffs and slow minimal drums. In this band we basically are free to experiment with noise tapes, walls of guitar and bass distortion with no real boundaries or rules, if we want to write a 40-minute song, we will. The band is kind of a direct reaction against most modern types of extreme metal music, which have become stagnant, old, repetitive and boring.
As far as the initials-only thing, well, that was a necessity at the outset of the band due to a few problems with certain individuals. FUCK. After that the initials-only thing just stayed, and also this band isn’t really about posing or anything like that, we don’t even tell people we play music. It’s just not necessary.
2. Take me through your writing process for the first album and for Grief and Incurable Pain. When you’re writing these huge walls of noise, how do you know a song is over? Was there something new you wanted to try the second time out?
The first album we had no real idea, we had a bunch of riffs and some ideas for drones so we sort of just pieced it all together over time. We rehearsed that record a lot more and it wasn’t as spontaneous-sounding as the newer material. On Grief and Incurable Pain, it was decided to have a less accessible sound. We wanted to delve deeper into the dark black metal-style psych drones. Also, the bass guitar was a lot higher in the mix than the rhythm guitar, actually nearly all the riffs on the structured drum led parts of the new record are played on bass, allowing the guitar to then be used as an outlet for noise solos and heavily-delayed feedback improvisations. We basically wanted Grief and Incurable Pain to sound less like a metal record and more chaotic and even less organised than anything we’ve ever done before.
3. Do you record live? The albums sound so harsh. What were you trying to accomplish in the studio, and how much of the material is improvised?
The drums are recorded first then we play over them together, so I guess it’s half-live. We wanted to make these records sound real murky and dark. Absolutely nothing is polished or clean-sounding, everything is pretty much first take. If an instrument drops out or we make a mistake, it’s kept, and I’d say almost all the drones and noise sections are improvised or played loosely around like one or two riffs.
For us, doom and black metal have become far too acceptable now. The danger is gone, the badly-recorded noisy element has died and instead people are polishing their sound way too much. We recorded our first two albums in an attic onto old Dictaphones a Korg cassette 4-track and a beaten up old computer for digital transfer and some looping tasks. Some of the vocals were recorded in a crawlspace under old blankets by candlelight. We have old valve P.A. systems as our guitar amps, shitty old cabs and a collection of fucked microphones, this adds to the overall rotten ambience and is something that more mainstream musicians will never understand. We have also recorded samples and improvised instruments in actual forests and woods.
Another thing is the lack of creativity with bands now, a lot of bands seem to think a digital amp and a Line Six multi-effects pedal is the holy grail. Well, the way I see it is Hendrix had a valve amp that was simple as fuck, a fuzz pedal and a wah and he did more with that than these new bands can achieve with an arsenal of unlimited digital shitty affects.
4. To date, everything you’ve put out has been available on cassette. What is it about the format that keeps you loyal to it? So much focus seems to be on vinyl these days. Is there something in particular about the way Blut sounds on tape that you enjoy?
People buy vinyl but they don’t seem to listen to it. It ends up in a box and they just download the album as mp3. Why? Vinyl and tape sound way better — CD still sounds good to me also — but cassette is a real passion for us. It’s just that cool heavy sound, the background hiss, the fact that tapes play at slightly different speeds on different cassette decks as well, awesome!
5. How do the titles Ritual and Ceremony and Grief and Incurable Pain relate? Both have the “and” in there, but are they meant to be a summary of what the albums convey, or is there something else behind picking them? Put side by side, the two album covers seem to be staring at each other.
Well both these albums are part of a trilogy. The next record is called Drop Out and Kill. It’s our farewell punk rock-kind of record. After this one we intend on changing our sound again, make it darker sounding, more noise and less drums, maybe. As far as the album titles go, Ritual and Ceremony came from an occult encyclopaedia and Grief and Incurable Pain came from a biblical text. The art is supposed to look the same, actually when you spread the sleeves out next to each other it looks like some fucked up comic book. Unintentional but cool.
6. Any other plans or other closing words you want to mention? When is the split tape with Decaying Citadel due out?
S.M.: Split tape with Decaying Citadel should be out next year. We have recorded covers of The Melvins, “Leeech”/”Boris” and Doom’s “Lifelock” for that split. It was good to record some covers. It’s actually probably some of our more listenable material, we were going to record a Bauhaus cover but never got round to it. Maybe next time. “Hollow Hills,” maybe. A live show would be good next year or some sort of performance. Drop out and fucking kill.
N.B.: Well this is the first time I could be bothered to say anything for this interview. I just have this to say… Buy a valve amp and ditch your shitty Marshall combo, throw away your Mac with its fancy fucking GarageBand program. Steve Jobs is dead. His life has become a toilet book to be stacked in with your cheap porn collection. Move on. You will be ok. Delete your Facebook and try to have at least one ounce of integrity. The underground is not meant to be pretty… Fuck life…
Posted in Reviews on August 1st, 2011 by H.P. Taskmaster
Apart from a sample at the beginning of the first of its two tracks that’s soon swallowed whole by a distortion tsunami and some screams peppered throughout both tracks, there is no discernible speech anywhere within the just under 70 minutes of Blut’s second full-length CD, Grief and Incurable Pain. The initials-only British duo (hailing from Dorset and Bournemouth/Poole) of multi-instrumentalist/vocalist S.M. on drums, guitar, noise and vocals and N.B. on bass and noise have released a slew of cassettes and have more forthcoming, but I’m inclined to think of Grief and Incurable Pain (released by Portuguese imprint Bubonic Productions) as a sequel to 2010’s Ritual and Ceremony (review here), if only for the structures of the two titles and the fact that both albums are so unabashedly misanthropic, wrapped around Blut’s well-advertised slogan, “drop out and fucking kill.” That said, Grief and Incurable Pain also steps beyond its predecessor in both atmosphere and actual length, its two component songs, “Death.Mourning.Famine (2)” and “Wolf Shall Dwell with Lamb (Edit),” clocking in at a feedback-soaked 38:17 and 31:37, respectively.
Much of that time is devoted purely to noise and droning, which isn’t so much a radical departure from Blut’s prior long-player as much as a development of it. Consistent in both ambience and visual art, Grief and Incurable Pain also maintains the ultra-challenging sonics of Ritual and Ceremony, while also pushing them further into a crushing psychedelic black hole and offering maddening Sound City-amped tonal thickness, unrelenting drones, searing screams and abrasive feedback. Blut have taken the SunnO))) format and molded it into something more their own, and in that, the drums – intermittent though they are – play a big role. 18 minutes into “Death.Mourning.Famine (2),” mired in washing layers of noise, it’s the periodic crashes from S.M.’s drumming that’s providing any grasp on rhythm whatsoever, and six minutes later, when the drums are gone and it’s just sparse, morose guitar notes running over a Hadrian’s Wall of low-end rumble and tape loops, the affect is completely different – well, as different as two different times of lung-collapsing aural misery can be, anyhow.
Posted in Reviews on October 4th, 2010 by H.P. Taskmaster
Not to be confused with the Swedish one-man black metal outfit formerly operating under the same moniker, the über-doom duo Blut call Hampshire and Dorset in the UK home and expunge a gurgling, grotesque misanthropy most black metal can only pretend to stab at in high-contrast black and white photos. Their debut full-length, Ritual and Ceremony (Wolfs Hook Records) tops out at over an hour and creates an atmosphere of such foreboding that to call it anything less than SunnO)))-esque is to sell it short. In three hyper-extended tracks, Blut go deep into dark psychedelia, punishing listeners with unyieldingly heavy riffing and brutal cackled vocals. Even when they see fit to throw a groove in, as they do eight minutes into the opening cut, “Throne Ritual,” they do so with the full knowledge of the brutality surrounding.
I get a lot of emails from bands, but Blut’s was immediately more interesting than most and a great indicator of the two-piece’s attitude and outlook. It was signed “fuck everything.” Bassist/noisemaker N.B. and drummer/guitarist/vocalist/noisemaker S.M. (it’s an initials-only kind of situation) recorded Ritual and Ceremony in Winter 2009, and the record sounds colder than the UK gets. It’s like they imported wind from Greenland. As the 24-minute opener gradually gives way to “And Death Shall Flee from Them,” the course of the album is set. For all the open space in their songs, echoing feedback, waves of pulsating noise, Blut have no room in their ambience for oxygen. S.M.’s vocals occur sporadically and in short burts, and it wouldn’t work any other way. From my understanding, the black metal cave from which they emit only allows sound to escape for a few hours of the forbidden night, and that doesn’t leave much room for lyrical headiness. Spew a little hate, move on to the next riff (or stay on the same one for another seven minutes). Not a bad ethic for this kind of record.