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But Still Worth The Look - 76%

OzzyApu, May 28th, 2009

It’s odd that Grom happens to be the most overlooked album, since I always thought nobody gave two shits about Pandemonic Incantations. Behemoth set their place in the black metal scene a little later than most bands, but their impact was much stronger than anyone anticipated. I personally can trace likeable material from the very second demo, which is a huge plus since I don’t even listen to demos. Looking at the album art I already knew something was different – something… odd. I had this hunch that this wasn’t going to be another Sventevith, which may seem great since we want variety, but by the time I was halfway through the album I knew it wasn’t such a spectacular follow-up.

Most elements are retained from previous works, such as the gnarly leadwork, thrash-influenced drumming, and Nergal’s now raspy screams. Otherwise, production is much more “clear” and all the instruments are properly balanced in volume. Bass can be heard as a subtle rumble under everything, and it really sounds weird hearing it separately from the rest. I’d still compare this album a lot to Immortal’s Pure Holocaust since at the core this album sounds just like that one. Experimentation is present such as the use of more acoustic / folk sections, female vocals, and the overall tone of the album.

Guitar riffs and leads are pretty distorted and usually tremolo, but not that bad or thin compared to the previous recordings. They’re rough, aggressive, and atmospheric while the acoustics really give a more epic sound. Hearing them not only makes me feel relaxed and rejuvenated, but also spices things up for the songs themselves. They’re more interesting and suck you in moreso than most of the ones on Sventevith. Synth interludes / acoustics are top-notch, obscure sounding, and add even more to the supernatural / occult tone that has followed the band since the very beginning.

What I’m not fond of much are the female vocals, which do make me think of some witch in the forest, but really come off as the worst part of the album. Whenever I hear them I can’t help but be turned off by their off-key, out of place nature. Not only that, but the bitch also gets Nergal to try out some baroque sounding clean vocals, which suck even harder and detract from the true atmosphere. This album is supposed to sound haunting, mystic, and pagan, yet these two vocal inclusions don’t cut it for me.

What I am fond of is the drumming, once again; years of progression have turned Ravenlock into a pure beast on the kit. Double bass is excessive not in blast beats, but like a stampede with a spear and shield down a hill like on the cover art. The tom / snare patterns are catchy and timed in the main rhythm that they add more melody with their beats than before. In fact, you’ll be headbanging in sync more to the rapid-fire drumming than the riffs themselves.

Obviously this album is a step-down from the debut in some areas while it evolves in others. Even though drumming has greatly improved, it’ll be the last we ever hear of Ravenlock, since the demon Inferno would be recruited right after this. I forgot to mention that Nergal actually has a little bit of a growl in his screams here, so you know damn well that this is the base starting point in his vocal change. Production is much better than the previous two in clarity, but atmospheric wise you’ll get more out of the debut and previous EP. This album isn’t bad, but I find that I got less out of it in the end than the other ones and even the later ones – we’ll get there, eventually.