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Atrociously wonderful - 95%

Ilwhyan, March 29th, 2012

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.