Review Summary: Black metal: Now with 50% more evil!2 of 2 thought this review was well writtenThere is no official tracklisting for this album, and it is usually split into two "tracks" (one for each side of the vinyl). However, each side does have three distinct songs (six total), and the review will refer to them as Track 1, Track 2, and so on. See the comments section for the specific location of the tracks within each side and their durations.
To put it simply, What Once Was... Liber I
, the most recent full-length by French experimental black metallers Blut Aus Nord
, is evil music more than it is anything else. It's unrelenting, it's violent, it's heavy, but none of these adjectives better describes the listener's experience than simply "evil." Completely and utterly devoid of any semblance of light or positivity, in the album's six untitled tracks the band plunges you, the unsuspecting listener, into a frenetic maelstrom of coldly calculated chaos and utter hatred. Even the album art, a gloomy and dark portrait of what seems to be the inside of a church portrayed predominantly in black, pays heed to the pure negativity of the album and its music.
Musically, there's nothing especially revolutionary here: most of the tracks have a similar feel and vibe, and there aren't too many stylistic variations from song to song. However, while the music isn't breaking any new ground for black metal, it is brilliant in its pure simplicity. Here, we have fast drums, relatively prominent bass, largely tremolo-picked guitar work, and demonic, unintelligible shrieks: nothing more, nothing less. There are no stupid, unnecessary bells and whistles. Blut Aus Nord
put absolutely no bullcrap into their art: what you see is what you get. No cheesy keys, no tedious ambient sections, no useless cleans. Only 31 depression-inducing minutes of pure, unrefined, and nihilistic black metal of the highest quality.
Of course, there is some variation here. Sometimes the band plays speedy and evil tremolo riffs, sometimes they play medium speed and evil tremolo riffs, and sometimes they play slow and evil tremolo riffs. Track 4
, the album's most lethargic, strays into what could only be described as doomy territory. The drums are slower, and are overlayed with ringing power chords and more evil tremolo riffs, all with vocalist Vindsval's diabolical, raspy shriek. This change of pace actually makes for one of the album's darkest moments. However, Blut Aus Nord
can be just as evil when playing faster songs: cuts like Track 6
are unforgiving slabs of repetitive (in the best possible way) riffs and blast beats that serve to utterly suffocate the listener and penetrate deep into the darkest realms of his subconscious.
is the best the band has to offer: it has (more) tremolo riffs, it has slower-paced, doomy sections, and it has the album's most intensely evil guitar pieces. At slightly over nine minutes it's also the record's longest track by far, but it never overstays its welcome. This is what separates Blut Aus Nord
from so many of their peers: even with a fairly short half-an-hour runtime, most acts would be hard-pressed to hold the listener's attention if the album in question consists entirely of unrelenting, raw, and (you guessed it) evil black metal with relatively little inter-song variation. However, even after stripping down their sound to this unrefined style, Blut Aus Nord
are never in danger of completely losing the listener's attention. While there are times when one wishes that the group could throw something else into the mix, these wandering thoughts are quickly silenced by yet another tide of tremolo-picked and demon-shrieked evil. These three gentlemen are masters at what they do, and they'd better not be stopping anytime soon.