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Though this release is mainly known as the limited run of 666 copies of a three-EP box, there is also a CD version which is fairly affordable in comparison. "From the Devil's Chalice" should not be overlooked as an excessively limited collector rip-off release of secondary musical value, for that it is certainly not. It's quite easily availabe in Finland at least, and musically possibly Behexen's second strongest release to date.
Though released in the same year as the third full-length album of Behexen "My Soul for His Glory", this box set is musically fairly different. Firstly, the style and sound strongly recalls the masterpiece of 2004, "By The Blessing of Satan", and possibly even earlier material where, however, different aspects of the style are augmented, while some elements are entirely omitted. Therefore, those disappointed by the 2008 full-length should not make the mistake of writing this release off, nor should any connoisseur of quality black metal who was perhaps not overly fond of any prior Behexen record. In comparison to the largely polished and somewhat ununspired full-length released only a month after, "From the Devil's Chalice" is very raw and streamlined. Its atmosphere is much more aggressive and less ponderous and mystical; the music is largely driven by strong, substantial riffs – sometimes cold and dark, sometimes blissful – and not ambience, plodding passages or peculiar interludes. It has the hypnotic atmospheric qualities of any Behexen album, but manifested in a different, unique way. Where especially "By The Blessing Of Satan" and "My Soul For His Glory" are marked for marvelously dark and mysterious and even melancholic passages, this release is entirely focused on bludgeoning black metal riffing with certain trancelike qualities in the vein of earlier Gorgoroth and mid-90s Darkthrone.
The album begins with the with raw, blunt black metal riffing of "Invocation of Zabulus", where passionate, ear-piercing screams and relentlessly pummeling percussion accompany malevolent, invigorating riffing. The production is incredibly raw and distorted, with booming basses and razorsharp trebles, and the sound hardly reaches the laudable clarity which Behexen has generally chosen for their albums. Especially drum sounds tend to drown into the trebly distorted noisiness of the guitars and vocals. Considering past and future releases' far greater production values, the lo-fi element of "From the Devil's Chalice" is quite obviously a conscious decision. It could be said that the quality of the recording is harsh and rough, rather than inherently poor. Unless merely a fluke, the production apparently results from a certain aesthetic and vision (and indeed, the ability to realise said vision) rather than merely a vague preoccupation with the raw and, lacking the know-how, opting for the objectively poor. The choice was astutely made, as the rough and abrasive sound is beneficial to conveying the hateful passion of Behexen's music even where the riffing is melodic and graceful, or when the music takes a mystical, atmospheric and less outright aggressive turn, and the vocalist chants in clean tones rather than screams of satan and debauchery with Hoath Torog's signature impish, high-pitched scream.
The album's strongest point is the aggressive but emotive riffing, and how well it combines with the profoundly dark atmosphere. The potency of the mixture varies track by track: "Invocation of Zabulus" is almost entirely driven by excellent riffing, intelligently arranged structure and the utmost conviction of the band's performance. "Melancholic Rememberances of Dark Times" recalls the less than flawless fusion of said aspects on Behexen's debut, as here the melodic riffing is often less aggressive and more anthemic. The title track, unliek "Melancholic Rememberances" and especially "Void...", concentrates on traditional brutal, dark riffing of Behexen, although in a more streamlined and determined – if less relentlessly intense – form than on the previous full-length. "Void..." on the other hand displays a remarkable fusion of dark, depressive and then outright positive, vivid riffing. "Holy Foul" marks the return of triumphant moods from the opener "Invocation of Zabulus", and the last song "Cantile (For Ye Lord)" marks a descent from the pummeling black metal riffing fest into the lowest depths of dark, atmospheric melancholic mire.
Though "From The Devil's Chalice" album may seem like a mere collector's item, it's much more than that. It's a masterpiece of black metal and one of Behexen's greatest releases. The album is like a tribute to the golden era of black metal, and it succesfully recaptures the greatness of the second wave in all its dark, satanic glory, and it reaches and occasionally even surpasses the level of quality of established black metal classics like "Pentagram" and "Under a Funeral Moon".
This is a review of the digipak version of this, which was hard enough to locate a copy of. Right off the "bat"(sinister vampyric pun), I'll address why I feel this otherwise brilliant cd is flawed: THE SOUND IS TERRIBLE! It isn't the production that is terrible, but I think it is the transferring from the originally intended vinyl to cd format. I am not sure if you'd call that the mastering or what. The oddest thing about this is that it only sounds decent played at very low volume, quite the opposite of the intended usage I'm sure! When played at normal or abnormally loud levels, it sounds over-saturated and distorted, and not intentionally distorted. This is not some nit-picky techno-weinie whining, as I hope I've made it clear that I am not savvy to technical terminology; it sounds as if a mistake was made at some point or another. It is not an attempt to sound "nekro" nor an ill-advised attempt to sound different, as Mayhem did with their last jamfest. And, yes, Leopold, the use of the word jamfest was MEANT to be insulting! However, despite the sound, this material is more ultra high quality black metal from Behexen, and is worth seeking out. Perhaps if you can find it on vinyl, as it was originally intended, it would sound better?
All the Behexen elements are present, song-wise and playing-wise. If you are unfamiliar with Behexen, I do not suggest this as a starting point merely because of the cd's sound. If you ARE familiar with Behexen, you may be wondering which style of vocals is employed. They sound like the same approach used on the split with Satanic Warmaster; not the extremely high shrieks used on "Rituale Satanum", nor the diverse and seemingly unpopular with some listeners attack used on "My Soul For His Glory". There is a wee bit of atmospherics on here; some chanted vocals, some eerie intoductory stuff. For the most part, this is very straight-forward black metal of highest calibre, played at mostly fast pace and generously peppered with memorable guitar riffs.
If you enjoy Behexen, you must have this; you'll be able to hear the brilliance despite the flawed mastering; it is not unlistenable, just disappointing and puzzling. If not for that flaw, I'd give this a score of 96! Hey, maybe I've got a copy that was manufactured badly and everyone else's will sound great?