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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.