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Thunder - 95%

Felix 1666, January 30th, 2017
Written based on this version: 1996, CD, Solistitium Records

I freely admit that the headline is not very original, but a highly decorated scientist (myself) has detected that "Thunder" ("Grom") and extreme metal have many things in common. The noisy explosiveness, the shocking effect, the power. Not to mention the fact that the closest friend of Thunder is called Lightning and we have therefore another feature of extreme metal at hand: energy. Well, "Grom" reflects power and energy as well and those who do not listen to metal will be shocked when being confronted with this album. But the second full-length of the Polish flagship also conveys a primordial, natural and slightly mysterious feeling. The fantastic artwork bundles these elements and it also leaves no doubt about the style of the music. "Grom" houses pure black metal, probably influenced by albums such as "De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas" (listen, for instance, to the sick vocals in "Lasy Pomorza") or "Pure Holocaust" (the various high speed parts). Furthermore, it shares its heathenish elements with the works of Rob Darken's Graveland. Nevertheless, "Grom" reveals an own personality. Some purists might say that the Norwegian classics cannot be beaten and I tend to agree, but Behemoth have penned a very strong full-length as well. Some tracks are simply perfect.

The extremely dense "Lasy Pomorza" is among these immaculate creations. Its different parts, the combative and raging opening, the powerful yet relatively melodic verse and the elegiac chorus melt seamlessly with each other. The partially Attila-inspired singing walks the fine line between genius and insanity with instinctive certainty and the multi-layered guitar work goes hand in hand with dynamic tempo changes. "Passionate" is probably the word which describes tunes such as "Lasy Pomorza" perfectly. "Spellcraft and Heathendom", another unbeatable number, shows a very harsh side of the band. The guitar work is the driver for this mostly fast-paced eruption of violence. Behemoth cut a corridor through the Pomeranian forests with the power of a bulldozer. Nergal puts his black heart and the likewise black soul in this song. His raw and fervent vocal performance borders on lunacy, while the restlessly attacking guitars demoralise the Polish Catholics in a merciless manner. Please decide for yourself whether this is a tragic or not.

Yet Behemoth do not only focus on aggression. Consequently, the atmospheric intro and the outstanding beginning of "Dragon's Lair" are dominated by great keyboards lines. The intro is based on a very simple yet effective use of this sometimes tabooed instrument, while the keyboard melody of "Dragon's Lair" has an almost playful touch. (No panic, this does not mean that it fails to liaise with the driving guitars in an excellent manner.) A small number of somewhat folkloric sections is also integrated and the same goes for pretty melodic female vocals. Yet already the pure rawness of the album's mix prevents any form of laxity. The courageous three-piece did not intend to create a consensus-seeking sound. Blessed with a do-it-yourself mentality, the band itself produced the album. Thus, "Grom" shows an intoxicating, almost overmodulated mix with thick guitars, an outstanding density and contagious liveliness. The result is that the full-length scores with a pretty unique and very exciting character. Maybe I am just too old and my brain is a loser, but I do not know many other releases with a similar sound. Guess this is a very huge compliment for "Grom".

The music and lyrics have mostly been written by main man Nergal. Drummer Baal Ravenlock contributes the texts for two songs, bassist Les is happy while playing just his instrument. Speaking of the involved artists, I may not forget to mention the female guest singer. She shows up in some songs, for example during the fanatic first regular track. Her clean soprano avoids trite "beauty and the beast" stereotypes with great ease. Nevertheless, the duet with Nergal in the title track does not fully work, but this is probably not her guilt. The composition itself fails to reach the highest level. "Grom" is the rather slow-moving closer of the album and simultaneously the only song which does not deliver another uncompromising dose of sincere black metal. This is slightly regrettable, because the band had the potential to forge a totally perfect album. Anyway, the highly decorated scientist that I have mentioned at the beginning of this review smiles. "Grom", the album, is truly a thunder.