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Despite quality output early on, it only took Behemoth two albums to realize that traditional black metal wasn't the stylistic avenue they wanted to explore for good. The subsequent paradigm shift had begun in earnest with the Bewitching the Pomerania EP, but it wasn't until Pandemonic Incantations that the potential of such an atypical (for the time) stylistic cross-section featuring middle-eastern undercurrents became glaringly apparent. This is certainly the most obscure roster that has ever assembled under the banner of the dual serpents, featuring then-newcomer Inferno alongside bassist Mefisto (in his only appearance with the band) behind veteran and founder Nergal.
As per it's enviable location in Behemoth's timeline, Pandemonic Incantations unsurprisingly merges the group's primitive second-wave black metal ambiance with burgeoning death metal ferocity. This is the only Behemoth record of their obscure mid-period in which the band's earlier style still maintains the lion's share of the appeal, and a particularly vile combination of dissonance and crushing tremolo patterns remains after the initial smoke clears. The performance isn't as unhinged as Satanica, but more long-winded and grandiose sounding than Thelema.6 as well, allowing Pandemonic Incantations to slide into the procession nicely, despite being often overshadowed by the attention-hogging Satanica a mere year later.
The heavier keyboard presence helps add some quick atmosphere, and this practice instantly separates Pandemonic Incantations markedly from the remainder of the band's catalogue. Weltrowski's presence on the ivories is quite subdued on the whole, but peeks over the surface enough to gain an atmospheric foothold during "The Entrance to the Spheres of Mars" and the requisite instrumental opener "Diableria (The Great Introduction)". The synths emulate true orchestrations more often than not, and are composed with enough care as to not sound overtly cheap or laughable. Behemoth has always been a dead-serious band, and they have always been careful to avoid dragging themselves into the realms of self parody, since their material often straddles the line between the inane and the sublime.
That said, a particularly coherent animosity is gained during well-armed blackened grinders like "The Thousand Plagues I Witness" and "Satan's Sword (I Have Become)". Nergal's typical (up to this point) croaking begins to reconstruct itself under more guttural and exhaled guidelines, forming the basis of his now-famous sepulchral bellowing. The two aforementioned tracks fade into each other, forming an incendiary whole that comes full circle not unlike the Ouroboros/Daemon hybrid featured on the front cover. Despite being Inferno's debut with the group, Pandemonic Incantations hardly cranks the dial regarding speed or velocity, as the majority of the album is comfortable within it's upper-midpaced confines, occasionally hitting the brakes to take in the diabolic scenery as the keyboards and dissonant powerchords recharge their misanthropic batteries during obligatory lulls in the action like the more lurching vocal driven passages of "The Entrance to the Spheres of Mars" and the majority of the doomy "Driven by the Five-Winged Star".
While the bulk of the instrumental emphasis is still placed on Inquisition-esque atonal tremolos and wafting blastbeats, Behemoth hints at future greatness through the delivery of great antediluvian lyrics and subtle middle-eastern melodic undertones. It may come off as superficial by modern standards, but during a time when fucking Grom was the most recent and accomplished Behemoth full-length, the stylistic foundation of the band certainly found itself undergoing a major plate shift when Pandemonic Incantations hit the scene; with said album melting both eardrums and expectations with armor piercing rounds like "With Spell of Inferno" and "In Thy Pandemaeternum", both of which serve as seamless representations of the Thelema.6 style. Surprises lurk around nearly every corner, as even the longest song "The Past Is Like a Funeral" surprises near it's end as it delivers an array of Dissection-esque melodic licks. Some sporadically radiated cleaner tones round out the album's eccentricities.
The universal point is that you never know what to expect, and it comes off as a result of compositional elegance as opposed to desperation in Pandemonic Incantations' high and mighty case. Despite a reliance on some pointless noise passages like the Mortal Kombat-sounding "Chwała mordercom Wojciecha (997-1997 dziesięć wieków hańby)", this is breathtaking material from beginning to end. The mere fact that it serves as a historical snapshot of Behemoth's rise to death metal super stardom comes second-fiddle to the isolated appeal of Nergal's absolute mastery of atonal black metal riffing. For a band that continues to up the ante regarding their death metal inclinations, Pandemonic Incantations remains the farthest that Behemoth has ever pushed their equally-potent blackened disposition. Will it hold that trophy forever?
Pandemonic Incantations has not the brutal and oppressive technical heaviness of Thelema.6, though at the time it would have been quite a gauntleted fist to the face for regular Behemoth listeners. It truly set the band on their path via, primarily, the addition of Inferno, who seems if anything frustrated by the more open and traveling nature of the material he is working with, and responds by piling in fill after fill and stacking frantic ride tattoos over extremely tricky, precise rolls. Those familiar with Polish band Damnation, a fairly simple death metal outfit, might have heard Inferno doing a similiar thing on their record Rebel Souls. The man is unstoppable. Pandemonic would have been a massive innovation for Behemoth and a game changer for them even with a more pedestrian drummer, but with Inferno their journey toward both international recognition and abiding respect in the underground was already assured.
Nergal probably also deserves a mention, as here his grand vision was beginning to truly take shape. Had Behemoth combusted in 1999 and disappeared off the face of Satan's arse, this record might be a lot more talked up these days. Epic guitar leads, a furious mix of serrated death metal riffs and menacing black metal soundscapes merged seamlessly together in the band's best appropriation of a style between the two genres until 2009's Evangelion. 'The Past is Like a Funeral' opens with an imposing, marching motif in the vein of something like Nemesis Divina, before the skittering, highly satisfying drums of Inferno propel it all toward a black metal section that gives way to a more Watain-playing-Demigod blast.
Yeah, strangely prophetic, some of these guitar lines. Interestingly Pandemonic Incantations, somewhat fallen by the wayside of conversation over transformative Behemoth records such as the following year's Satanica and the emergence from the death metal cocoon that was Thelema.6, was more than just a stop on the road to brutality and dominion. Yes, churning passages in tracks such as 'In Thy Pandemaeternum' recall a serving of Purgatory-esque death metal with some of Vesania's symphonic synth hits. But the shrill and burbling tremolo leads that lend the album its melodies and climaxes are more in line with records like Casus Luciferi and the recent slew of black metal bands playing in Watain's style. The fantastic opener 'The Thousand Plagues I Witness' has the same sort of descending jangle of dissonant notation in its primary motif as does a track like 'Devil's Blood', which came three years later, and overall with its harder edge, forcefully epic inclinations and ugly vocals, is a bit of a ringer for just the sort of black metal available at the moment from bands like Valkyrja, Denouncement Pyre and so on. 'Satan's Sword (I Have Become)' likewise. This shit is awesome, and really its own thing.
I can't complain about the sound either. The guitars groan, the drums even have a very slight 'ping' to them that gives a raw edge and associates the record with slightly more bestial efforts, and Nergal's vocals are unmolested by effects, just really huge, hoarse and flammable invocations.
A cool record with a brilliant mix. Take it as a more atmospheric, less brutal version of Behemoth's early 2000s hits, or take it as an aggressive, tight take on the sort of black metal that is popular in post Dark Funeral/ Watain Sweden and France right now. Or as just a worthwhile installment in this band's discography if you are not that immersed in the underground's many sources of aural abuse. Either way, worth visiting or revisiting.
From shit, to black metal, to blackened death metal; Behemoth have quite the journey. The intensity can only proceed forward, with this truckstop being the middle of the road between the land of black metal and the land of death metal – blackened death metal, for lack of giving a shit. Here we see the most prime example of Behemoth today: lyrics dealing more with history and antiquity rather than pagan themes, folk-converted tunes to more biblical / old world inspired themes, and just the general music becoming more like death metal. These signs were present on the last album, but only in small capacities that even the bitch on the cover art couldn’t cover up.
Production job is almost as good as a blowjob – compare it to the last album and you’d know where I’m coming from. The tone of the guitars is raw but stirred, convincing, and the riffs themselves very middle-eastern sounding – again, this is where that biblical shit comes in. You’ll feel like a plague is upon you as the rhythm tramples everything in sight, leaving no mercy in its wake. It’s a more believable approach to the dark nature of the album, relying more on the strength of the riffs and the historical atmosphere as opposed to the black metal characteristics we’re so used to. Treading with this is a bass that rumbles, yet doesn’t really shine as we’d hope it would. It’s clarity is one thing, but from my stereo I can’t get much out of it. The guitars have me in a trance already; in fact, I feel as though I’m in some Egyptian dungeon and am about to be sacrificed as part of a ancient cult ritual too stupid to comprehend. Let me guess, the bitch on the cover is the one performing this…
* out slithers the snake-bitch *
…oh god damnit…
While all the songs are generally mid-paced, it doesn’t sound like it. Drumming usually indicates the rhythm, so as you’d expect, Inferno is faster than all holy and hell. Double bass is used so excessively it’s embarrassing, but the real shitstain comes from the snares and cymbals, both sounding artificial and metallic that it doesn’t cooperate well with the organic sound of everything else. For an album trying to sound traditional and historic, you’d expect more natural sounding instruments – they should have just used bongos.
Ha, what a sight – Inferno on bongos…
Most of the songs themselves sound the same, but it’s the finer details in the riffs and rhythms that set them apart. Early tracks like “The Thousand Plagues I Witness” and later tracks like “The Past Is Like A Funeral” sure both sound Sumerian, evil, and taste of sin but have driving melodies that make them differ more than a pop song next to a punk song. The two aforementioned songs could very well be the best ones on this short album, especially considering the shortness of the intro / outro and the… uh, track that’s completely in Polish? You know, the eighth track according to this page? I dunno, it’s not even a track that fits well with the rest of them – more like another experimental piece with unfitting vocals and overuse of synths.
Nergal typically uses a deeper growl kind of like Åkerfeldt of Opeth, but not as “guttural” or “deep.” Kind of like how his growls sound on My Arms, Your Hearse - yeah, I’m not too far off on that one. They definitely fit well with the new tone of the album, but overall these traits are tame compared to the later works.
In truth, this is a great album that is severely overlooked in the Behemoth discography. Black metal fans don’t want to touch it because they consider it part of the death metal era, and death metal fans don’t want to touch it because they already have Satanica and everything after to bathe in. Early in the Grom review I stated that this album was second only to that album in terms of people not giving a shit, but I certainly feel that both are on the same level now. Grom was really the album where the band attempted to identify itself – it’s experimental core turned off many people and paved the way for this album, which people seem to rub off as well. Sadly people are so easily mistaken, because I feel that this was a step in the right direction. Sure the band’s black metal material has it’s place, but moving on to death metal was a sign of growing up not in terms of just band members, but also a more adult sound.
Behemoth's Pandemonic Incantations is the third full length from this steller polish metal force. What this album tends to invoke really are chaotic blackened hymns. Not the sort one would imagine black sorcerers singing in a twisted wood, but more akin to the conjuring recitations of a demonic entity itself. The production is strong and powerfull though I can't but help to, at times, wish for something slightly rawer. Overall the production is fantastic with every instrument really standing out in the mix but at times, standing apart in the mix - notably some of the horn parts.
The guitar tone is powerfull and raw; trebly but not irritatingly so. Nergal unleashes torrents of riffage upon us with each song. Each song has a twisting demeanor like black food dye dropped in a glass of murky water. The bass is fairly simple compared to the intricate noodlings of Nergal. Mefisto's tone is quite clean but somehow refuses to contradict the album's dirty atmosphere. His simple bass lines could be a bit more involved in some places. Many times he is keen to simply play the basics which doesnt always sound bad but, sometimes doesnt always sound the best. Inferno's drumming is a highlight for me. It is varied beyond belief and he utilizes tons of techniques. Nergal's voice is, well, ridiculous. Like a screaming visage of death emerging from blackened clouds of fire and brimstone, his vocals simply pummel you at every chance. Although the vocals are fantastic, they aren't really breaking the bounds of...well... anything in the metal spectrum like I suspect he can do. The hint of clean vocals at the beginning of The Thousand Plagues I Witness is a slight blip that he has the ability. There are some horns and trumpets strewn about also which sometimes add and sometimes detract.
"Driven By The Five Winged Star", despite what seemed to me a hasty ending, is a favorite of mine as is "The Thousand Plagues I Witness". Both twist and turn, bubble and churn, but are still enjoyable regardless of the complicated compositions. I would have really enjoyed several more straight foward tracks to break things up and just let me enjoy the brutality but that is a minor complaint really. For the most part the album lives up to a standard compositionally that allows the songs to be complex without sounding pretentious and stupid. Behemoth could have used some different methods of switching between parts aside from the absurd amount of drum fills but I think that this is more a mark of a developing band than a mark of bad songwriting. With Inferno's drumming prowess, his fills are always good which also is a big help.
Overall Pandemonic Incantation sounds awesome and really does bludgeon decisively. Songs like the above mentioned and "The Past Is Like A Funeral" show a band capable of writing music that is melodic, destructive and brutal but retaining a credibility within the style created for them. Behemoth show a huge array of techniques and influences on this album which helps give them a unique sound and style. Backing keyboards help give an epic sound but, unlike so many other bands, don't ruin the sound totally. I would say that if your a fan of Behemoth from some of the more recent albums and have not had a chance to listen to this, your missing out on a major part of their repertoire. If you have never listened to Behemoth at all, then this wouldn't be a bad place to start since the albums afterward just get better and better.
1998 was an extremely important year the history of Behemoth. Inferno joined the band as a full-time drummer, bringing a whole new power and fury to the band with his incredible skills, while main man Nergal’s songwriting began the change from black metal to death metal while still combining elements of both. All of it coalesced into one foul monster of an album, PANDEMONIC INCANTATIONS.
Whereas the previous album, GROM, was a full-on black metal assault, this disc incorporated death metal influences into the band’s sound and toughened it up, making sound even more vicious and heavy than before. The focus of the lyrics also began to shift from paganism to more Satanic-based themes. In fact, only one major remaining link remained to the past: Nergal’s inhuman vocals, now even more abrasive and evil.
Crushing songs like “In thy Pandemaeternum” took the Behemoth sound to the next level, in large part due to Inferno’s insane drum ability. The man is a whirlwind behind the kit, flailing away with such precision that it’s scary. Of course, awesome drumming is totally useless without great songs to bash around, and Nergal wrote some of his best here with “The Thousand Plagues I Witness” and “Satan’s Sword I have Become”. Brutal and uncompromising, these songs are like poison darts straight to the heart of Christianity, bellowed forth by Satan’s chief war master.
Still, for whatever reason (apparently the band didn’t get much label support for this album), PANDEMONIC INCANTATIONS, much like the rest of pre-Satanica Behemoth is largely ignored. This is inexcusable. This album planted the seed for what Behemoth would eventually become, and is an amazing slice of death metal in its own right. Go now, find it, and revel in its power.
-------Originally posted at Metal-Rules.com-------
This is another album which isn't quite Behemoth's old raw black metal nor the new black influenced death metal. Its not really that good, despite some decent moments. This album and "Grom", although not total disasters are probably the two worst albums Behemoth released.
The album starts off with "Diableria" which is a short intro. It really doesn't do much for me. It has an eerie haunting sound to it and some chanting in the background towards the end. Next is "The Thousand Plagues I Witness". This song also really isn't impressive. It has mediocre vocals, bland and boring riffs, and only towards the end do we get something decent, which is a guitar solo, and even that is placed in the background so you don't really get to appreciate it much anyway.
"Satan's Sword (I Have Become)" is a faster song with some fast drumming and decent vocals, but the riffs here are once again bland and boring. Its basically almost one riff being played over and over and we don't even get a solo at the end to somehow make the song bearable. Its pretty bad.
"In Thy Pandemaeternum" is another faster paced song, but at this point in the album we do notice some change. This song is much better because the riffs are a bit more melodic and not as bland. The vocals are passable, and the drumming is pretty good. Even though the riffs are still repetitive here, at least the riffs themselves are a bit more interesting and melodic. Probably the best song so far.
"Driven By The Five-Winged Star" is another more melodic song and we could see that right from the first riff. Even though it sounds kind of doomish and it is slow, it sounds a bit more melodic and atmospheric. At about 40 seconds the song picks up speed, we get a bit more melody, and we even get a quick solo in the background, and it isn't the only solo. This song is full of short but to the point and melodic solos, making it one of the best songs on this album.
"The Past Is Like Funeral" starts off pretty doomish and slow again before Nergal's scream comes in and the song picks up in speed and melody. This song while long and not very interesting does have some melody and atmosphere, so that already makes it better than the first few tracks in the beginning which were really a pain to listen to.
"The Entrance to the Spheres of Mars" is the best song on here. It starts off with a melodic but blackened riff and although the constipated vocals make a return here, the added melody and atmosphere make this song pretty enjoyable to listen to.
"With The Spell Of Inferno (Mephisto)" is another pretty horrid song. Sounds experimental. All it has is basically one riff being played over and over with the synths coming in from time to time and chanting in the background. Its very annoying and pointless and should have been left out of the album, but looking at the length of the CD, it looks like they just needed some filler shit to make it a bit longer. This however is still better than the shit we have for an outro which is basically a bunch of noises put together with some synths and sounds like a broken CD thats still holding on for its dear life. Absolutely horrible...it actually hurts my ears. I was able to handle the shit at the beginning but the last two tracks were just an absolute embarrassment for a band like Behemoth.
While this album has a lot of shit on it, thank God there are some pretty enjoyable songs right in the middle. This sounds more like an experimental album than anything. It seems like they were bored with trying to be like black metal, which is why thankfully the next album introduces their new style.
Okay, this album can be called the last album in Behemoth’s early, Blackmetal material. I would not say that it is in classic fashion, under-produced, nor can it be called general Blackmetal, as later releases would imply. This is a fairly well-produced, melodic Death/Blackmetal with some synth in several places, although it’s very low in the mix, it performs it’s part well, even though I can’t say I am a fan of synths in general. There are certain resemblances to the following albums, although it still retains the ‘blacker’ style of the old eras, hence the statement I began with. Anyway, onward with the music itself.
The opening track, Diableria (The Great Introduction) is basically an, well, intro track with acoustic guitars (those who’ve heard Demigod, might find a small resemblance here) and chanting choirs. Actually pretty nice, although it’s no track you sit down and listen to; it’s not good on its own really. It definitely tries to set a bit of an epic mood, and it succeeds with this.
The second track, “The Thousand Plagues I Witness” is a really great track with a brass section (synths, of course) going and really nice riffs in some places. One of the better tracks on the album, and probably the coolest song title as well. Too bad the lyrics are pretty shitty on the whole album.
“Satan’s Sword” (I have become) is the third track, it starts right off, with some random riffs, some of which sound pretty okay, but I must say I find it pretty generic. The epic is still there, especially in the outro to the song, which I think is brilliant.
“In Thy Pandemaeternum” is probably the worst song on the whole album, or perhaps track seven. It really doesn’t stand out, there’s basically just boring riffs and absolutely none of the atmosphere from the first three songs.
When the fourth track finally ends, “Driven By The Five-Winged Star” starts off, with a nice guitar intro, and then goes in a fairly steady intro throughout the whole song. It’s very melodic, and the latter part of the song is basically a really awesome solo. I love this song, the best one on the album in my opinion.
When done with the really, really great track, “The Past is Like a Funeral” follows this up. While it might not be good when it begins, it gets better and better into the song, then finally reaches it’s climax. A great song.
Sadly, it all ends there, “The Entrance To The Spheres Of Mars” is a really shitty song, with almost upbeat riffs. I… can’t really say anything more about it, the song just plain sucks.
Well, it’s a fairly incoherent album, all in all, there are some good songs and some bad. The whole album is actually not that good, and even if it differs from both new and old releases of Behemoth, this isn’t exactly one of the better. If you’re a fan of behemoth in general, both new and old, you should try this album. It has a few good songs as mentioned. However, if you’re new to Behemoth, I wouldn’t recommend this. Try newer albums and some of the older ones, and then this.
Stand-out tracks are: “The Thousand Plagues I Witness”, “Driven By The Five-Winged Star” and “The Past is Like a Funeral”.
+ For the epic mood set in the first song
+ For a few really good tracks
- Boring mixing, some riffs are really, really bland.
Final Score: 68 %. Just too incoherent.