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It’s odd that Grom happens to be the most overlooked album, since I always thought nobody gave two shits about Pandemonic Incantations. Behemoth set their place in the black metal scene a little later than most bands, but their impact was much stronger than anyone anticipated. I personally can trace likeable material from the very second demo, which is a huge plus since I don’t even listen to demos. Looking at the album art I already knew something was different – something… odd. I had this hunch that this wasn’t going to be another Sventevith, which may seem great since we want variety, but by the time I was halfway through the album I knew it wasn’t such a spectacular follow-up.
Most elements are retained from previous works, such as the gnarly leadwork, thrash-influenced drumming, and Nergal’s now raspy screams. Otherwise, production is much more “clear” and all the instruments are properly balanced in volume. Bass can be heard as a subtle rumble under everything, and it really sounds weird hearing it separately from the rest. I’d still compare this album a lot to Immortal’s Pure Holocaust since at the core this album sounds just like that one. Experimentation is present such as the use of more acoustic / folk sections, female vocals, and the overall tone of the album.
Guitar riffs and leads are pretty distorted and usually tremolo, but not that bad or thin compared to the previous recordings. They’re rough, aggressive, and atmospheric while the acoustics really give a more epic sound. Hearing them not only makes me feel relaxed and rejuvenated, but also spices things up for the songs themselves. They’re more interesting and suck you in moreso than most of the ones on Sventevith. Synth interludes / acoustics are top-notch, obscure sounding, and add even more to the supernatural / occult tone that has followed the band since the very beginning.
What I’m not fond of much are the female vocals, which do make me think of some witch in the forest, but really come off as the worst part of the album. Whenever I hear them I can’t help but be turned off by their off-key, out of place nature. Not only that, but the bitch also gets Nergal to try out some baroque sounding clean vocals, which suck even harder and detract from the true atmosphere. This album is supposed to sound haunting, mystic, and pagan, yet these two vocal inclusions don’t cut it for me.
What I am fond of is the drumming, once again; years of progression have turned Ravenlock into a pure beast on the kit. Double bass is excessive not in blast beats, but like a stampede with a spear and shield down a hill like on the cover art. The tom / snare patterns are catchy and timed in the main rhythm that they add more melody with their beats than before. In fact, you’ll be headbanging in sync more to the rapid-fire drumming than the riffs themselves.
Obviously this album is a step-down from the debut in some areas while it evolves in others. Even though drumming has greatly improved, it’ll be the last we ever hear of Ravenlock, since the demon Inferno would be recruited right after this. I forgot to mention that Nergal actually has a little bit of a growl in his screams here, so you know damn well that this is the base starting point in his vocal change. Production is much better than the previous two in clarity, but atmospheric wise you’ll get more out of the debut and previous EP. This album isn’t bad, but I find that I got less out of it in the end than the other ones and even the later ones – we’ll get there, eventually.
Behemoth is a name that has long been associated with the highest quality heavy metal, especially since the band started making a big name for itself with its death metal releases, beginning with 1999’s SATANICA. Mostly due to availability issues, many fans are unaware that the band had put out three official releases prior to that (excluding demos). What’s more, the albums were quite far away from the precision death metal crafted by the band now; instead the albums fell squarely within the confines of mid-90’s black metal, right down to the extreme heathenistic lyrics. GROM was the band’s third release, surfacing to light in 1996.
So what does Behemoth circa 1996 have in store for us? Well, like I said, it’s pretty extreme black metal, cold and evil. The band at the time consisted of main man Nergal, plus two accomplices named Ravenlock and Les, neither of whom would survive until the next full-length.
Nergal has said that GROM is his least appreciated album in the Behemoth canon, not liking the “experimental” aspects that band tried, such as female vocals and choirs. Personally I found these to be small elements of the album, not really adding anything, but not detracting from the experience either. For the most part, this is searing black metal done up right. Favorites include the blistering “Spellcraft and Heathendom” which probably features the most tortured vocal performance on the record, and the catchy fuzzy bass of “Thou Shalt Forever Win”.
It is clear that Nergal was a master riff craftsman even back in ’96, as each song on here is memorable, except the somewhat annoying “Lasy Pomorza”. So while it is quite a different beast than the Behemoth of today, the band’s black metal era is nothing to be ashamed of. GROM is definitely worth finding.
-------Originally posted at Metal-Rules.com-------
Today Behemoth is something way different from when they first started their careers. Behemoth's demos were awesome and real raw black metal. While this album can still be classified as black metal, it does start to show some signs of change. I think that this album is definitely a weird one, because its not truly black metal, and it isn't as good as the demos or as good as the death metal with blackish influences that would come after this album and the next.
The "Intro" I am neutral on. It isn't bad, but it is a bit boring. Its mainly the same melody being played over and over again by some weird instrument which sounds like an organ with some weak drumming in the background. For me the album really starts with "The Dark Forest" which is a pretty good song. It starts off with an angry scream from Nergal, and starts off very fast and brutal before it slows a bit. Its a rather long song, but it varies and doesn't get boring. Nergal's vocals here still have a typical black metal rasp but it is rather high in the mix which isn't always typical in raw black metal albums. The song has some breaks where we only have acoustic guitar, and it has some female vocals, which are good, but once again makes this album weird in that you can't really classify it as black metal...how many true black metal albums have female vocals going back and forth with clean male vocals for a bit? I can't think of one. Towards the end we also have a pretty nice and melodic solo which gets into a pretty high tone towards the end of it. Overall a different song but its one of the best on the album.
"Spellcraft and Heathendom" starts off with a pretty catchy riff that keeps going for a while. The song is another pretty fast one, with some good vocals and fast drumming. At times though we get a melodic riff that comes in front of the main guitar. It gives the song a bit more of a melodic feeling and also a bit more atmosphere. Another decent song.
"Dragon's Lair" starts off with a melody from what sounds like a synth before the rest of the instruments come in. It is also a bit of a melodic song with a break for acoustic guitar. Pretty enjoyable as well.
The next song is "Lasy Pomorza". Being Polish, I was interested in how this song would sound since the lyrics are sung in Polish here, and I haven't heard polish vocals in black metal yet. The song isn't all that incredible though, a pretty dark riff that is repeated a lot with some raspy vocals. If it weren't for me knowing that this song had polish lyrics, I wouldn't be able to tell anyway because of how unclear Nergal is singing them. So I really wasn't impressed with this song.
"Rising Proudly Towards The Sky" is another pretty unimpressive song. It sounds a bit like "Lasy Pomorza" in that its a pretty typical black metal song with little atmosphere and dark riffs being played over and over. The only interesting thing in this song is the solo in the background being played toward the middle. Towards the end there are some weird vocals which almost sound like moaning and they got a bit on my nerves.
"Thou Shalt Forever Win" is another song that sounds like its two predecesors. It has a break for acoustic guitar and it has a solo but the other parts just get boring, with the weird vocals and the boring typical raw riffs being played over and over.
The closer, "Grom", is a much more interesting song. It still sounds like raw black metal (despite the weird vocals at times), but it has a chorus sung by a female. Her singing is weird, but its different, and a bit more interesting and less annoying than the weird male vocals. As typical it has a break for acoustic guitar. One of the better songs on here.
So even though many of the songs have a raw black metal feel which I like, there are several things that ruin this album and separate it from black metal. One or two of the songs are a bit melodic, which isn't a bad thing, but isn't typical to black metal, and the weird vocals. The female isn't bad, but when the guy comes in with the vocals, it basically sounds like a constipated man moaning loudly. Pretty annoying. It isn't a bad album by any means, but I was expecting more of a black metal feel still kind of like their demos.
While their first album "Storming the Baltic" was a classic black metal album along similar lines as Graveland and early Emperor (and would be later a giant influence on Nokturnal Mortum, among many others), Nergal and the other guys in Behemoth were not content. They continued their push to expand their sound and create black metal with true feeling.
This album sets itself apart in many ways. The pure atmosphere of the music is perhaps the most striking thing. Listening to this I am captivated from beginning to end, put into a land of darkness, endless forests and pagan spirits. The guitar has the high trebble fuzz sound of Burzum's Filosofem and Darkthrone's "A Blaze in the Northern Sky," while the drums blast and pound away like Mayhem's Hellhammer. The riffs themselves are very Mayhem-ish (unsurprisingly on the "Chaotica" 2 disc set, there is a bonus cover song of Mayhem's "Freezing Moon"), they have a melodic edge, and also a very aggressive feeling. Nergal's vocals are now in between his current death metal sound and the early high pitched Burzum screams. At times, like on "Rising Proudly Towards the Sky" his vocals are very obviously a homage to Attila. And since I like Attila's vocals, I find that Nergal's use of that sound works very well.
The main thing you could say about this release, is that while it has a minimalist heart, there is so much added stuff going on that even after listening to it many times I notice more things. Strange acoustic guitars, female vocals, riffs that turn from minimalist to complex at the turn of the hat. A beautiful fluidity marks all of this. Behemoth adds experimental touches to a sound that is based directly on fast, aggressive and atmospheric black metal.
Any fan of pagan black metal must own this release, and Behemoth's first as well. Without them your collection will never be complete. Gromm is every bit a classic, it's an album that stuns me every time I put it in. Ignore what the naysayers have to say about early Behemoth, and listen to black metal fans, and you'll soon find out why Behemoth was considered one of the best black metal bands, until they cowardly changed face.
Behemoth is a band that has changed drastically from “true” black metal, to a fusion of blackened death metal. Grom is a middle point between their black metal roots, and their newer era material Zos Kia Kultus and Demigod. While Grom does a good job with several elements like fast aggressive drumming and harsh aggressive vocals, it also has several elements that are very out of place. Elements like female vocals, clean vocals, and long bridges which seem to progress towards nothing. With many things going on in this album, it presents a challenge to listeners. Who will like this album? Will it appeal more to death metal listeners? Black Metal fans? Or the general Metal enthusiast? Perhaps all?
Grom starts out with your typical intro that many black metal bands may do, or metal bands in general. Its nothing special, in fact it becomes repetitive and trite after forty seconds or so in its simplicity. Generally the goal of such intros is to set a tone or progression that leads into something more powerful, which this does, so mission accomplished. The intro leads into some of the fastest drumming I have heard from Behemoth on the second song of the album The Dark Forest (Cast Me Your Spell) . Equally as heavy as the acclaimed Zos Kia Kultus and Thelma 6, but significantly faster. Its similar to that of Heaven Shall Burn era Marduk. Its quite fast and aggressive with a lot of changes which keep it as the center of focus along with the riff. With all the variations of the drumming there Is a lot to pay attention to, this is not something typical for black metal, since a lot of black metal bands consider drumming to be just there, the riff makes the grim feel to it. Other examples of fast, aggressive, complex, and ever changing drumming are found on other tracks like Thou Shalt Forever Win. Of all the elements of Grom, the drumming strikes me as the best, most interesting, and complex. I feel the drumming and composition of the drumming will appeal to all metal fans alike, what metal head doesn’t like fast and aggressive drumming with many different interesting things going on?
Anyone familiar with Behemoth’s earlier works (The Forest Dreams Eternally to …From The Pagan Vastlands) knows well that they started out as “true” black metal. As time evolved they turned their sounds into that of blackened death metal with focuses on progression. By the release of Grom Behemoth lost many of their black metal roots or changed them to a fusion of black and death. This goes for all except the vocals. Nergal sings on Grom with harsh and screeching vocals that remind me of Darkthrone’s of sorts. They are not as deep as on Behemoth’s later works, but I feel are much better. They are more brutal, and fit the music much better by adding more of an atmosphere. The harsher higher pitched vocal singing from Nergal works well because he can drag out his singing longer which goes well with the constant drumming and guitar work on this album. On Behemoth’s most recent works the music is choppy and broken up, which lends to a choppy, deeper, and less harsh style of singing. That style of singing I feel is weaker and lacks the power and atmosphere that Nergal Creates with his vocals on Grom. This vocal style will appeal to Black Metal fans more than anyone else.
There are parts of this album a metal head would love, where a black metal fan would hate. When an album tries to do too many things it alienates certain demographics of listeners, example (black metal fans, death metal fans, prog fans). What Grom tries to do to much of is incorporate elements foreign to that of straight forward aggressive black metal. This is not to say that other black metal bands haven’t used acoustic guitars, synths, female vocals, clean vocals, this is saying that they are used horribly here to the point where they ruin the flow of the album and make some tracks unlistenable to. On The Dark Forest (Cast Me Your Spell) the song starts off great, aggressive and interesting drumming, grim and relentless riffs, all that you expect from a good black metal album. Then the song crashes, a slow picking acoustic guitar will start to play which breaks the flow of the song as well as the small atmosphere that it was creating. To further exacerbate the disruption to the flow and consistency of the song, clean male vocals followed by mediocre female vocals drone on for too long over slow and boring drumming. Finally burying the song is an out of place guitar solo that is washed out and slow, making the song almost sounds like guitar rock. This break in consistency coupled with bad elements such as clean vocals and a horrible guitar solo completely destroy any enjoyably obtained by the intro track and the music from the beginning of the song.
The songs following are all quite good, except for a very repetitive length of Spellcraft And Heathendom. Nergal says the same thing to much over and over again, and makes his vocals seem less harsh and more screaming. Other such moments which are a turn off or less than par are the week ending to the otherwise strong song Lasy Pomorza. Lasy Pomorza is full of aggressive and fast drumming, grim and raw guitar riffs, and dark, harsh vocals. Making it full of atmosphere and aggressive to head bang to. With such a strong premise set up, the ending just doesn’t do the song justice, thus breaking the consistency once again. Rising Proudly Towards The Sky basically repeats the errors of On The Dark Forest (cast Me Your Spell). Out of place clean vocals is what plaques that particular song the worst. Despite several moments of Grom that destroy the consistency of the album and take away from its most redeeming moments, it still manages to present a worthy listen. I often found myself banging my head to some aggressive, brutal drumming as sell as noticing myself getting into the rhythm of some of the guitar work while admiring the desolate screeching harsh vocals of Nergal.
This album attempts to be many things, early 90’s black metal, blackened progressive metal, death metal, and a fusion of a few of these genres. Unfortunately this hurts this album. Grom attempts to do to many musical styles and incorporate to many musical elements into its music it loses its identity. With all the break in consistency that resemble nothing of previously established black metal, or anything that is recognizable as black metal, Grom fails to be black metal. The album fails to be death metal since the vocals are (when sung by Nergal) clearly black metal. Many people will say labeling a band or album in a genre is unnecessary, just enjoy the music created. Well for Grom’s case, having no identity hurts this album greatly. Through out the entire album Grom tries to find what it is, and fails by trying to be to much. Thus this makes the listener have a difficult time trying to enjoy the album a certain way. Black metal fans will be looking for the atmosphere and aggression, which is to be found with the vocals, drums, and guitars, but as stated before, these moments are shattered by inconsistency. The progressive metal fans will be turned off by the black metal vocals. This album will only find a home in the hearts of the general metal enthusiast while it isolates the listeners of specific genre’s. Ergo this review being done by a black metal fan, I found the album to inconsistent and not powerful enough to listen to, the atmosphere created was weak and broken to much. Perhaps someone who is into heavy metal and death metal will like it more. Over all an average album, not good, but not horrible.