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By the Blessing of Satan - 68%

Noctir, December 22nd, 2011

Behexen is not the most prolific band in the Finnish black metal scene. Having been in existence since 1996, they have only released three full-length albums, along with two demos and two split releases. By the Blessing of Satan, their sophomore effort, was released by Woodcut Records in March 2004, four long years after their debut record. Though Horns and Hoath Torog were also working on Sargeist during this period, there was still plenty of time to write music for Behexen. One would imagine that, with such an opportunity, they would have gone over each song until they were all perfect, but this was not the case.

The first thing that most people notice, upon listening to this, is that the production is horrible. Everything is too loud, and the overall effect is too abrasive. The bass and drums are both too high in the mix, which is especially evident during the double bass parts. It does not sound as if any single element has enough room to breathe; in a sense, it has all been compressed into a small space. At times, it is difficult to focus on the guitar melodies, of which there are many impressive ones that get buried beneath everything else, such as the latter half of "Fist of the Satanist". The layer of fuzz that was present on Rituale Satanum is still there, but also unable to have the same effect due to the wretched mix. The guitar riffs would, likely, have a cold feeling if not for the way everything comes together, which ends up creating more of a hellish feel. Many will ignore the album, right off the bat, based on the overwhelming noise level; however, it is really worthwhile to tolerate and adapt to the harsh sound in order to appreciate the music, as there is something going on beneath all of the chaos.

As for the songwriting, itself, one can tell that Behexen mixed several different influences and the result is not always positive. In particular, songs like the title track and "Celebration of Christ's Fall" bear several elements that simply do not belong. At times, they sound reminiscent of Dark Funeral, with the horrible deep vocals overdubbed, boring riffs and overactive blast beats. Thankfully, the really bad tracks are in the minority. The rest of the material demonstrates a mild level of influence from the likes of Bathory and Darkthrone, with the old school style of riffing. There are also traces of Burzum, heard in the use of the open-arpeggio riffs. The strongest inspiration seems to come from Mayhem, as evidenced by the cold and nocturnal tremolo melodies that are present in most of the songs. For the most part, the arrangements allow for a decent amount of variation, mixing mid-paced and fast sections and doing well to create a morbid atmosphere, at times. By the Blessing of Satan possesses many good riffs, but there are also a number of mediocre ones that should never have made it to the final stage. One surprising thing that the band did was to include an eerie lead guitar solo on "Black Metal Baptism", which displays just how powerful solos can be when used properly. It is a shame that most black metal bands choose to ignore this element.

By the Blessing of Satan does not reach the same level as its predecessor, Rituale Satanum, but it certainly has its moments. There are only two songs that are worth skipping past, while tracks like "Under the Eye of Lord" deserve repeated listens. At its best, this record creates a dark and sombre atmosphere that will haunt you for countless nights. Give this a try.

Written for http://ritesoftheblackmoon.tripod.com