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Blut aus Nord > What Once Was... Liber I > Reviews > krigsstev
Blut aus Nord - What Once Was... Liber I

What Once Was... Brutal Death! - 93%

krigsstev, March 14th, 2011

Blut Aus Nord are a metal act that always takes whatever they are exploring to the extreme. These Frenchmen have long had a reputation of being innovators in the black metal genre, and their 2010 EP "What Once Was... Liber I" follows their first 7 full-lengths in a surprising way. Having experimented with elements ranging from symphonic black metal to industrial, with both complex melodic and atonal song structures, Blut Aus Nord throws us yet another curveball by releasing a straight-up no-frills brutal death metal album.

If this were released today as Blut Aus Nord's long lost demo from 1990, I don't think anyone would be surprised. It would be heralded alongside Darkthrone's "Soulside Journey" as a solid death metal offering before the advent of 2nd wave black metal. Released as a 2-track 12" EP (both sides untitled) with minimal artwork, there is little to warn the listener what awaits. The opening drone on what sounds like a keyboard in the basement of hell could easily suggest this was going to veer in an experimental direction like MoRT or Odinist. However, the song abruptly kicks in to a filthy, furious death metal riff backed by thunderous, echoing drums. This has none of the studio polish that most of their albums feature, not to say that it's badly recorded. It sounds very deliberately recorded with all the atmosphere of the inside of a coffin.

The distorted growls are punctuated with savage gurgles that layer on top of each other at times, invoking a swarm of devils all screaming for your soul. The guitars are downtuned in classic Autopsy style, dirty and buried in reverb and yet sounding freshly exhumed. The solos are the only part that's clearly from the Blut Aus Nord playbook, often sounding like they are being generated by an insane robot through squealing layered effects. They do work well within the context of the mix, having some of the same character as Bill Steer's suicidal dive bomb solos on the earliest Carcass material.

Did I already mention this pulled a lot of tricks out of the classic death metal playbook? Unlike the brutal black metal onslaught of their album "Mystical Beast...", this record breaks up the skull-jarring blastbeats with slower death grooves. One complaint I've had about previous albums is that sometimes it's very obvious the drumming is programmed and doesn't keep up with the diversity of the guitar playing. I don't know for sure if there's a live drummer on this record, but the playing is active and diverse and frankly the most interesting I've heard on a Blut Aus Nord album to date.

While presented as 2 long tracks, each side does break down into 2 or 3 segments that could be interpreted as "songs." The guitar work is as furious as ever, burning through complex riff after riff, conjuring graveyard atmosphere with every twist and turn. The compositions are tight and relentless, barely giving the listener time to catch their breath during slow murky breakdowns that are often punctuated with the lacerating solos mentioned before. A final cymbal crash finally concludes side two, and the record vanishes like a demon in a cloud of black smoke. At a mere 31 minutes and 23 seconds in length, I often find myself listening to it twice in a row just to fully grasp what's going on.

Apparently this is the first in what will be a series of recordings to be released parallel to their more "refined" albums. Don't expect Blut Aus Nord's other material when you buy this record, but any true Blut Aus Nord fan knows to expect the unexpected with each of their albums. However, this one is definitely for fans of Teitanblood, Vasaeleth, Antediluvian, and the rest of the current revival of true raw evil DEATH metal.