Having finished their 777 trilogy, this installment in Blut Aus Nord's between-formal-albums project proves that there is indeed a schematic at work. On their standard full-length projects, beginning with 2006's MoRT, they began an ambitious and, for their fans, often off-putting series of dissonant, album-length experimentations that drew away from their groundbreaking black metal origins. This series of albums began between 2009's Memoria Vetusta II: Dialogue with the Stars and 777: Sect(s) (the first part of the 777 trilogy). The second followed after part two, 777: The Desanctification; this one follows its conclusion, 777: Cosmosophy. These are very strategic, as well as stylistic, placements. On the What Once Was … Liber series, the writing and performance style is far less considered, structured, or produced. The songwriting is nowhere near as interlocking, and the approach is more organic and raw. The earlier two volumes are concrete examples of black metal, particularly BAN's very French version of it, and it's still a core consideration; this album reflects that, but also brings more in, though it is not so formed as to be conceptual or strategic. Simply numbered sections precede each part of the "suite," buzzing black guitars and blastbeats careen around and through Vindsval's guttural growls. But there is something else, too: an aspect of drone upon which atmospheric drones and other textures are loosely added, creating a clash of force, modality, and dissonance that continues through the work's length. Seeing this more aggressive, assaultive aspect of BAN return -- again letting loose within this kind of primitive abandon when contrasted with their conceptual, experimental full-length offerings -- rounds out their portrait sonically and musically. They cannot be pinned down or defined. This kind of aggression is a BAN trademark, even with the added elements, and its more basic execution doesn't prove a minor addition to their catalog, but a multidimensional extension of it. Hopefully, it will continue indefinitely.
AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek