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Transitional Albums Aren't Necessarily Bad - 86%

Zekes, July 2nd, 2017
Written based on this version: 1996, CD, Solistitium Records

It is rare to find a band that is able to successfully navigate the realms of black metal and death metal with such a degree of success. Behemoth is one such band. Behemoth's earliest demos are canonical works in the black metal catalog, while their newer material has established them as death metal giants. This album is by far one of Behemoth's more interesting releases. While Sventevith and the earlier demos are purely black metal marked by raw production, thrash influenced drumming, and Mayhem-esque guitar riffs; Grom is largely a transitional album setting up Behemoth's move towards death metal. Grom lacks the rawness of Behemoth's earlier efforts, and clearly has better quality production. Instrumentally speaking, notable changes in sound include the jumpy almost punk-like bass that is audible throughout the album, female vocals, chanting, repetitive guitar riffs, and several atmospheric interludes. Black metal purists and naysayers will be quick to point out these stylistic departures are " out of place," "odd," and "superfluous" but it is precisely these elements that make the album worth listening to. Without these stylistic changes this album with be rather superficial, repetitive, and quite honestly boring.

Each song on the album is catchy in its own right, but gets boring rather quickly. Nergal and company are able to keep the listener engaged by adding these odd elements to the album making it one you'll want to listen to from beginning to end. For example, in The Dark Forest, the first guitar riff is repeated for nearly a minute before Nergal interrupts with an emphatic arpeggiated riff that leads directly into the body of the song, which, otherwise, is fairly standard black metal. This theme of breaking up more traditional black metal progressions with different musical elements is seen throughout the album. Frequently these elements remind me pagan metal motifs (read Enslaved circa 1994), and simply add to the overall feel of the album. The biggest shortfall of this album is that every song follows this pattern, such that no single song stands out. While there are some great guitar solos and experimental passages, this album simply does not do enough to differentiate between each song making it apparent that Nergal was still searching for his sound.

Notwithstanding, this was the first Behemoth album I ever picked up, and remains one of my favorite albums by them. It is one of the few albums I always listen to from beginning to end and It represents the unique period of time where Behemoth was able to make the move from pure black metal to the death metal masters they now are.