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Behexen released their immensely promising if yet somewhat immature debut album, "Rituale Satanum", in 2000. The debut introduced a band with ear for terrifyingly ugly metal, capable of creating powerfully evil atmospheres, and with an interesting and original style of melody writing. The satanic darkness and melodic elements did not yet exist in a perfect symbiosis on the debut album, but in 2004 the unattractive larva vomited out another regurgitated abomination, "By the Blessing of Satan".
Everything seems to be right with "By the Blessing of Satan". The relentless blasting intensity of many Norwegian bands is incredibly well infused with riffing excellent enough to make early Gorgoroth jealous, and delivered with enough conviction to surpass most. The fuzzy, dark and very trebly production, where every instrument can be heard well and yet are distorted well beyond the usual standards of even semi-raw black metal, augments the absolutely black, terrible atmosphere greatly. Every instrument is played with absolute conviction and tremendous vigour, and if not always with unfaltering technical aptitude, then at least adequate ability. Each rhythm guitar part and its counterpoint, with the ferocious drumming and malicious screams, is either a testament to heinous terror and atrocity, a piece of sheer somber beauty, or a twisted entwinement of both, creating immensely addictive soundscapes of some murderous, exhilarating celebration of darkness.
The title track kicks off without asking any questions, having no introduction, with absolutely dark and evil riffing, prodigiously convincing screams, fast-speed blasting and overall relentless force. The music shifts between ugly, brutal rhythm guitar riffs and melodic, very dark and evil lead guitar with a certain sense of mystery embedded to the melody-writing that truly sets it apart from the average black metal lead guitar. Melody and darkness coexist wonderfully here. Whereas many more melodic black metal bands lack the intensity and brutality of their more norsecore-styled peers, and the latter kind lacks the memorability and quality of the former, in this Behexen song the best of both kinds is emblazoned with remarkable intensity and violence. "Fist of the Satanist" is a heavy, mid-paced black metal track with excellent powerful atmosphere and excellent black metal riffing, chiefly inherently simple rhythm guitar parts with the odd fascinating intricacy (though in songs like "Fist of the Satanist", such intricacies are more rarely heard than in others). "Celebration of the Christ's Fall" is equally true to its namesake as the violent fist-pumping second track of the album: its pacing is absolutely manic and the atmosphere strongly impassioned. "Watchers of My Black Temple" features slow tempo, stupendously heavy and dark atmosphere and melancholic, even beautiful riffing, creating an unbeliavable dichotomy of violent ugliness and dark beauty.
"By the Blessing of Satan" is extremely entertaining to listen to due to the great pacing of the album. Each song is fairly different and placed in a very good balance. The powerful "Fist of the Satanist" brings variety after the sheer blasting melodic magnificence of the title track, "Sieluni Saatanan Vihasta Roihuten" brings out the hideous ugly side all out after the linear and slightly plodding second track, after which comes the maddened frolic of "Celebration of the Christ's Fall". Before the incredible, atmospheric closing track "Under the Eye of the Lord", "Watchers of My Black Temple" works perfectly as a refreshing piece to bring variety and to elaborate on the doom elements hinted at in the slower passages of "Sieluni Saatanan Vihasta Roihuten". Not only is every track on the album an excellent piece of black metal, but the album as a whole is also a magnificently composed assemblage.
It's a great shame that Behexen was not able to recapture the glory of this masterpiece on any future release. "By the Blessing of Satan" clearly represents the zenith of the band's career so far, and likely for all time. Few black metal records in history can surpass the sheer hideous magnificence, power and intensity of this singularly heinous masterwork.
Behexen is not the most prolific band in the Finnish black metal scene. Having been in existence since 1996, they have only released three full-length albums, along with two demos and two split releases. By the Blessing of Satan, their sophomore effort, was released by Woodcut Records in March 2004, four long years after their debut record. Though Horns and Hoath Torog were also working on Sargeist during this period, there was still plenty of time to write music for Behexen. One would imagine that, with such an opportunity, they would have gone over each song until they were all perfect, but this was not the case.
The first thing that most people notice, upon listening to this, is that the production is horrible. Everything is too loud, and the overall effect is too abrasive. The bass and drums are both too high in the mix, which is especially evident during the double bass parts. It does not sound as if any single element has enough room to breathe; in a sense, it has all been compressed into a small space. At times, it is difficult to focus on the guitar melodies, of which there are many impressive ones that get buried beneath everything else, such as the latter half of "Fist of the Satanist". The layer of fuzz that was present on Rituale Satanum is still there, but also unable to have the same effect due to the wretched mix. The guitar riffs would, likely, have a cold feeling if not for the way everything comes together, which ends up creating more of a hellish feel. Many will ignore the album, right off the bat, based on the overwhelming noise level; however, it is really worthwhile to tolerate and adapt to the harsh sound in order to appreciate the music, as there is something going on beneath all of the chaos.
As for the songwriting, itself, one can tell that Behexen mixed several different influences and the result is not always positive. In particular, songs like the title track and "Celebration of Christ's Fall" bear several elements that simply do not belong. At times, they sound reminiscent of Dark Funeral, with the horrible deep vocals overdubbed, boring riffs and overactive blast beats. Thankfully, the really bad tracks are in the minority. The rest of the material demonstrates a mild level of influence from the likes of Bathory and Darkthrone, with the old school style of riffing. There are also traces of Burzum, heard in the use of the open-arpeggio riffs. The strongest inspiration seems to come from Mayhem, as evidenced by the cold and nocturnal tremolo melodies that are present in most of the songs. For the most part, the arrangements allow for a decent amount of variation, mixing mid-paced and fast sections and doing well to create a morbid atmosphere, at times. By the Blessing of Satan possesses many good riffs, but there are also a number of mediocre ones that should never have made it to the final stage. One surprising thing that the band did was to include an eerie lead guitar solo on "Black Metal Baptism", which displays just how powerful solos can be when used properly. It is a shame that most black metal bands choose to ignore this element.
By the Blessing of Satan does not reach the same level as its predecessor, Rituale Satanum, but it certainly has its moments. There are only two songs that are worth skipping past, while tracks like "Under the Eye of Lord" deserve repeated listens. At its best, this record creates a dark and sombre atmosphere that will haunt you for countless nights. Give this a try.
Written for http://ritesoftheblackmoon.tripod.com
For those of us whose parents pass off metal as incomprehensible noise with no musical value whatsoever, Behexen is probably what gave them their impression. If this is true, it’s really a shame, firstly because there is metal out there more “unlistenable” than Behexen, and secondly, because many people overlook the multifaceted work that is By the Blessing of Satan, passing it off as incomprehensible noise.
In terms of comparisons, I can’t really think of any band that contains a similar sound to Behexen, although I’m not very familiar with the Finnish Black Metal scene. The production on this album is actually better than most raw or brutal Black Metal releases that I’ve heard. The most distinguishing feature is that the drums and rhythm guitar are accented, which buries the lead guitar. This is a shame, since the lead guitar is quite interesting as far as black metal goes. This does enhance the atmosphere to a certain extent however, creating a very distant feeling, as if the album was recorded in a crypt. The same effect occurs with the vocals, which are very powerful when used this way. While using the typical black metal shriek, they are very well done, evoking a very painful and tortured feeling. The drums make extensive use of blastbeats, while providing some interesting fills and driving rhythms, and the rhythm guitar performs solid foundational riff work. The bass is actually audible, though like the lead guitar, requires active listening to hear for most of the album.
As far as highlight tracks go:
Celebration of Christ’s Fall is where the lead guitar melodies are most evident, the first of which appearing at 0:20. Torog makes good use of his guttural howls as well. There’s a very catchy chorus as well, where “Celebration of Christ’s Fall!” is crystal clear. Best part in the song occurs at 3:11 where the lead guitar melody is most exposed, and a very good melody it is.
Black Metal Baptism begins with a driving rhythm guitar riff some arpeggiation on the D Minor chord in the lead guitar. The distant sounding lead guitar gives this a very creepy atmosphere. Before long the blasting of the drums enters, burying the melody once more. The lead guitar becomes evident once more at 3:35 with a killer riff that is used during the chorus. The break after the chorus has a very evil atmosphere created by the crushing rhythm guitar and drums, before a lead guitar solo at 5:11, which is very good, some would say virtuostic as far as black metal goes. The solo fades out giving way to a very cool bassline, echoed in the rhythm guitar. My personal favourite of the album.
Although these two are my personal favourites, there is no weak track on the album. Lack of originality is definitely a downside, in terms of both the music and the lyrics, as Brutal Black Metal is nothing new in this world, least of all with “hail Satan” lyrics. The accented drums and rhythm guitar get annoying after a while as well. Overall however, this is a very fine release for those who like their black metal raw and extreme. Requires active listening, and not for those of a faint constitution.
I have to admit, that first time I bought this album I skipped it and labeled it as mediocre, but one day I popped this sucker back to my stereo system, and I realised how great piece of black art this one is. I guess you could say that I didn't grow on it, but it grew on me... Like a cancer.
Although I think that the best stuff Behexen has released, is on the split album with Horna this album really doesn't fall that far. Songs are all brutal as hell, but still there are lots of melodic guitarlines buried under the wall of noise. And they sure are worth of looking for, because they are, along with Torog's vocals the true highlight of the album. Pretty much all the tracks here are strong celebrations for Satan and hate towards christ, so there really isn't "that one song" on the album. Some may say it's a bad thing that none of these tracks truly shines over everything else, but I say it's a good thing because in my opinion it is better to know a band because of a great album, not a great song.
However, my personal favorite track would probably be Celebration of Christ's Fall, which is pure bounding Black Metal assault the way it's supposed to be. Not mindless double-bass/blast-beat wankery (Panzer Division Norsecore-fans, I'm looking at your direction). The part where Torog screams "Celebration of Christ's Fall!" and a great guitar melody follows it, is just pure hate. But like I said, none of these songs truly beats the crap out of the other and it is at it's best, when it is listened from the first track to the very last, without continuously pushing the skip-button.
Lyrics might be a bit silly for someone, but then again this is Black Metal, so who gives a flying fuck? Of course I respect lyrics that have more deeper message behind them than just your typical "Hail Satan!"-stuff, but I really can't picture Torog screaming poetic words about forests, butterflys, rainbows and roses on a grave.
This album might get a bit monotonic if you are just an average listener, who is looking for some background music. There's a shitload of stuff buried under it all, so it might take some time to appreciate it.
But all in all, this is a great piece of traditional Black Metal. If you are looking for music that is highly original, then this is not your piece of cake... However if you just want a good Black Metal album to your collection, then I recommend this one highly. Plus it's lightyears ahead from their rather dull debut album.
By the Blessing of Satan is one of the best Black Metal releases in a long time. The sheer brutality, anger and hate that help manifest this slab of aural blasphemy creates an atmosphere unlike anything seen outside of the Norma Evangelium Diaboli label.
On the first listen, one may find little or no melody among the wall of noise that the band creates. But lost in the final mix is some serious tremolo melody, which tends to be overshadowed by thick, heavy riffing and Torog’s vocals (ranging from piercing shrieks to twisted growls). The drumming is pounding and tightly executed. If a bass track does exist on this release, it is buried in the chaos.
From beginning to end, this release does not let up. This is brutal satanic art at its finest. “Under the Eye of Lord” finishes off this release with a devilish summoning, followed by a drift into a short ambient outro that perfectly summates 50 minutes of utter madness.
Other than the brutal nature of this release, the changing structure of the [lengthy] songs, and the simple catchy choruses that are strewn in hither and thither, both help to maintain an air of originality to the release. Behexen’s typical Black Metal lyrics can be found on 90% of any other satanic Black Metal releases, so that is definitely not the main focus of any review, or the selling point of this album. It is the utter madness that is conjured that keeps me coming back to this modern masterpiece.
Fist of the Satanist – great chorus
Celebration of Christ’s Fall – your ideal Black Metal track
Black Metal Baptism – stellar
Behexen's second cd contains very brutal black metal. Cover art is very ugly and it should scare most of the unaware listeners. If the weakest people haven't been scared off by cover, the music does it. Seven tracks of this record are very raw, gloomy and unholy.
The sounds of the album are brutal. There are some (hidden) melodies and catchy guitar riffs, but they are mostly hammered under harsh guitars and hollow drums. Singer (or screamer) and lyricist Torog's voice is very distant, but still sounds unholy and sick. Their skills are good but they don't make any useless over-technical solos. Brilliant!
There are seven songs, one of them doesn't have it's lyrics printed, on the album and most of them are over 7 minutes long. This is also the weakness of the album. Album's overall length is about 47 minutes and there are seven (sometimes) overlenghted songs! Overlenghted or not, Behexen is responsible of dark and primitive black metal album. It doesn't create anything new to it's genre, but should it? Recommended for the friends of brutal black metal. Everyone else, don't touch!