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Few albums are as influential and beloved as Drawing Down the Moon. Beherit had created something that no one had ever quite heard before: drowned in a mist of darkness and doom, these Finns did bestial black metal like few others(I would argue the US band Demoncy did it a lot better, although they never got the accolades Beherit did.) But for all of the brilliance of Drawing Down the Moon, Beherit themselves never repeated the success, of even came close. Between 1994 and 1995, the band released two darkwave albums, a genre which I do not feel qualified to judge, then disbanded. They reformed to released Engram in 2009, but that is an album which does nothing for me. In the end, Beherit were a one album wonder, even if that one album has stood the test of time and remains as relentlessly evil and powerful today as it did in 1993.
Don't let any Beherit fans know about this fact though, as they are likely to crucify you for such an offense: Beherit are a band who before 1994 was the greatest Black Metal band ever, and have not done any wrong. Which is why I am sure At The Devil's Studio 1990 is likely to cause more than a few fanboy freakouts: this album was actually intended for release years ago, but was shelved at some point and only recently rediscovered by the bands drummer. Basically, At The Devil's Studio 1990 was intended to be the bands debut album, but never saw released. Recorded three years before Drawing Down the Moon, At The Devil's Studio 1990 is a much more traditional bestial black metal album, and it certainly is ferocious. It is also basically unlistenable. Sure, Drawing Down the Moon was poorly recorded as well, but at least the low-end was there: At The Devil's Studio 1990 has not discernible bass work, and the kick drum sounds flat and lifeless. Overall, the drums are completely powerless, drowned out by guitars that overwhelm every other instrument, while tired and barely involved vocals can be heard from time to time, if only to disappear under a wave of amp static.
What makes At The Devil's Studio 1990 even less appealing is that the actual music involved in really not all that interesting: without many of the progressive and doom-ish elements of Drawing Down the Moon, Beherit are incredibly typical... and incredibly boring. There is nothing here that compares with Blasphemy, Profanatica or Sadistik Exekution, at least nothing you can make out through the atrocious production. Beherit certainly made the right call trying to move the genre forward with later releases, but at the bands inception they were not much to speak of, and neither is this album.
At The Devil's Studio 1990 is likely to make a lot of fans very happy, but for those who do not obsesses over this band, this capitulates inessential. Lost in horribly broken production is a collection of so-so bestial black metal songs from a band whose legacy is built upon the back of a single incredible album, and who cannot seem to damage this legacy, no matter how many piss poor compilations and darkwave albums they seem to produce.
originally posted at http://curseofthegreatwhiteelephant.blogspot.com/
What we have here is the once thought lost debut album from the Finnish cult band known as Beherit. The group’s career reads like a how-to in both what to do and not do when entering the music business. While truly very early black metal that resonates if, for no other reason, intrinsic value of black metal.
Without too much back story on Beherit, suffice it to say that most of the recordings issued by the band are muddy messes, plain and simple. The vocals are muffled gargling most of the time, the instruments are criminally underwhelming, and the production is the sonic equivalent of expelling gaseous anomalies into a stream of endless coffee cans. With that said, if you’re looking for something that encompasses all of the wondrousness of underground dark music Beherit is a fitting reminder of that primitive, ancient era called the 1990’s. For most in the underground this recently discovered tape is a treasure unearthed while for others it’s simply another messy addition to a discography filled with mediocre, yet coveted music.
The Oath of Black Blood as a compiled piece is the first observance I had to Beherit some years back and I found it somewhat unimpressive. Now we find that the true album slated for its spot is found and I will admit that, while still an unmitigated lesson in lethargy, the songs fare much better in the, dare I say, rawer form? After hearing two decades of tremendously vibrant black metal, surprisingly wasteful efforts, and downright pathetic attempts at pimping out the lineage I can properly place Beherit in the spot it belongs and find its value somewhat enlightening. The tracks on this album are a bit more brutal and seemingly more structured than what ended up on the Oath album, so for that alone it’s like getting updated, albeit period-attentive Beherit to ingest and enjoy. And yes, Beherit can be enjoyed in the right frame of mind; it takes a special person to understand black metal music for what it is, not what the masses tried to turn it into. The demographic that was created in the mid-90s to lure and subjugate the scene kids has all but ruined the history, save for albums like this that embody all of the nuances and honesty of the period. If this had been some re-recording or other cash-grab attempt to embellish the movement I’d have not even bothered to review it. The historical value herein is its true gift.
For my taste, nothing comes close to Engram or Drawing Down the Moon, but there is some real value here for those of us that long for the old days of black metal when, in short, black was truly black enough. Some of these ‘updated’ tracks really showcase the core sound that was this movement back in its infancy, and oh, what a brilliant youth it had! If for no other reason, this album should be heard by the masses, new and old, because I guarantee any mall kiddies hearing this album will run for the safety of Mastodon or Cradle of Filth because they will never get this in a million years, and that’s precisely as it should be.
It’s our world, kids; we just allow you to occupy space for fun and relentless banter.
(Originally written for www.MetalPsalter.com)
Lodged back in the primeval sludge of turn of the decade black metal antiquity rests Beherit’s formative years, a time more readily recognized for abandoning any purpose other than shock and occasionally awe. This combination bears some resemblance to the coined term of America’s bombardment of Iraq in that the characteristic sound does a comparable number on the ears, functioning as a further exaggeration of the creepy, low fidelity quirks of Hellhammer and Bathory that takes into account the further innovations of a number of death metal bands. But Beherit was unique for their inability to close the deal on a complete debut, in part due to putting a greater emphasis on recreational alterations of personal reality than studio work, thus leaving behind a string of demo and EP works that were all but fit for perpetual obscurity.
“At The Devil’s Studio 1990” was the almost but not quite culmination of one of the sloppiest, most grime ridden and putrid exercises in contempt for studio practices to be put together. It resembles the combination of “Demonomancy” and “Dawn Of Satan’s Millennium” in its production character, though there is a slightly greater level of clarity that falls just a tad short of being a rival to “Pure Fucking Armageddon”. The strength (or weakness depending on one’s preferences) of this album is the obnoxiously bass-heavy guitar tone that bears a strong resemblance to the grim character of early Hellhammer, married to a blinding riff set that is perhaps more likened to Morbid Angel on crack. A distant and thin drum production and a extremely muffled vocal sound tend to remove any level of coherence in the overall sound, thus the resulting chaos that few love, but most tend to react to with bewilderment.
There’s an obvious uniformity in style at work here that makes distinctions between songs all but completely unnecessary, except for maybe a truly devoted early 90s cult adherent with ears for the style. Among perhaps the most distinctive is likely “Whores Of Belial”, which showcases the band’s signature mixture of chaotic speed with slow creeping, Doom leaning drone riffs with a ton of mud on top. “Six Days With Sadistic Slayer” is another bruiser that highlights the heavy death metal tendencies of a fair share of the riff work. But perhaps the biggest draw towards comparisons with a number of death metal oriented outfits that most likely took influence from Hellhammer and Celtic Frost is the extremely frenetic and almost random guitar soloing approach, all but providing a low-fidelity, fuzz drenched answer to Trey Azagthoth.
This is an album that will please the adherents and further alienate any one else. In other words, it’s the typical pre-2009 Beherit album. It can be regarded slightly more than its somewhat infamous cousin “The Oath Of Black Blood” in that it was an actual full length effort rather than a compilation passed off as such to placate a band with an uneven work ethic and a label needing a return on their investment, though it’s really just one more rung up the ladder that eventually led to the ironically amazing “Drawing Down The Moon”. But for the pre-militant era of the genre when all there was to the style was a few offerings out of Mayhem and the archaic repertoire of the 1st wave, it was definitely something in a group by itself, for what that is worth to the occasional history buff.
Originally submitted to (www.metal-observer.com) on July 17, 2011.
Part of the joy of being a cult metal act (or really, in any field) is that fans and labels will clamor over even the most trivial minutia in your history, and that is how something like At the Devil's Studio 1990 comes to manifest. In the defense of Finland's longstanding gods of grime, minimalism and experimentation, though, the material found here might be more 'key' than the typical slew of rehearsals, demos and bootlegs foisted upon the black metal underground. You see, technically this was supposed to serve as Beherit's debut, but it was shelved due to label troubles, and only recently resurfaced when drummer Sodomatic Slaughter realized he had the master in his possession. So, while many might consider the compilation The Oath of Black Blood as the band's full-length debut, this is in fact the 'proper' work that should fall in its place.
Now, this is not only Beherit we're discussing, but the Beherit of their formative years, so one should expect nothing here but the most volatile, crude and disgusting black metal possible, with a twist of primordial death in several of the tracks ("Grave Desecration Vengeance", etc), and a straight line to the thick and despicable influence of Switzerland's Hellhammer. To call the guitar tone here overbearing would be an understatement, because it pretty much plays center in the more or less rehearsal mix, leaving the drums to hang at the edge of perception and the vocals to blather on in only the most preshistoric approximation of a human being. Once in a while some frightening, noisy lead will spin through, rarely memorable, so At the Devil's Studio 1990 is more or less something that only the most masochistic punishment gluttons are going to really devote themselves towards. I can pick up on the insidious appeal, but in the end I feel quite similar about this that I did to The Oath of Black Blood: part of me revels in its rebellious, raw grasp, and the other part wants to hurl it at the nearest concrete surface.
Ultimately, the value is going to depend on just how much of a cult erection you are sporting for this band or classic, no frills European black in general. A few of the tracks ("The Oath of Black Blood", "Witchcraft", and "Demonomancy") also appear on the original compilation, so there is some redundancy, and I certainly couldn't decide if I enjoyed one version more than the other. Both are ghastly, amateur and irritating (i.e. working as intended). But much of the rest of the album is either exclusive to this once lost recording or perhaps partially rehashed from other material. If you're loyalty to Beherit is consummate, then perhaps the vinyl (or CD) would be worth a grab. They're not exactly brilliant composers, but then, that's never been their selling point, at least not for their older material. Personally, I'm more excited by what the band might shit forth after their 2009 studio recording Engram than I am for repeatedly re-listening to this, but its not bad for an 'historic occasion', at least to those who care.