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The Poisonous Path - 78%

Evokaphile, March 20th, 2017

Behexen have been elbow deep in filthy black metal for two decades now, releasing a string of by-the-books demo’s leading up to their debut full-length at the dawn of the new millennium, and up to this point have churned out five LP’s. Never straying far from the roots of old school Satan worship, the Finnish quartet's discography has been, lets just say, not exactly diverse or even particularly interesting. Though pretty much everything they’ve made in their long history has been nothing less than proficient, there has always been a feeling of slightly detrimental familiarity to it all. Always executed with the utmost confidence but never with an overt creativity that made them truly rise above their black metal compatriots, they’ve nonetheless always managed to garner the respect of those entrenched in the scene, due in large part to the fact that they do what do extremely well. With this in mind, The Poisonous Path shows Behexen branching out, albeit only slightly, and in doing so, have crafted the heaviest thing the band has made in their 20 year career.

Shamelessly insidious and self-indulgent, if there was ever a justification for keeping the old roots of black metal on life support in 2016, The Poisonous Path would be a worthy candidate for the job. The infernal heat of the albums’ more relentless tracks like “Cave of Dark Dreams” show Behexen haven’t lost an ounce of their unmistakable bravado over the years, however there is more going on here than witnessing a band re-hash old ideas. While this is still certainly a rather traditional black metal album, Behexen have seamlessly adopted a nuanced sound that almost straddles borders with powerviolence and hardcore at many junctures. Tremolo picked fury now shares the limelight with face shredding open chords and punch-to-the-gut riffs, displaying a new found contrast that adds an air convincing menace to each element. The band really capitalized on the potential created by adopting a modicum of diversity with their work – each member’s performance is nothing short of stellar, playing off each other with a vitriolic chemistry that can only be attained with time and dedication to this macabre art form. Hoath's vocals are as sepulchral as ever and interject with diction and finesse at all the right moments, and Horn's work behind the kit is fluid, fast and confident; holding the contrasting styles of guitar work together in a coherent and tight fashion. With nary a single awkward movement, nothing overstays its welcome here, and their veteran status really shines through in the awareness put into their songwriting as a group.

Deep, robust and lightless; the production job on The Poisonous Path is nothing short of exemplary. Lets face it, the days of recording an album with an answering machine bought at a flea market are gone, and Behexen are well aware of that. Wise enough to know the consequences of an overly glossy mastering and the disfiguring scar it can leave on an otherwise stellar musical performance, Behexen nailed every aspect of their sound design here. The Poisonous Path is crystal clear in terms of the balanced mixing and the completely audible nature of each instrument, yet substantially gritty enough to please those who value the empowering feeling of darkened, murky soundscapes. The added heft to the bottom end naturally complements the more opaque, violent moments of this album, but when moments like the triumphant riffs of “Chalice of the Abyssal Water” and “Gallows of Inversion” come in, it becomes clear that this deep abrasiveness further complements the subdued rays of light that occasionally punctuate the album as well.

Behexen really haven’t left themselves vulnerable to criticism here. Everything they strove to accomplish with this album was unequivocally achieved, and the extra dose of heaviness fleshed out by a punishingly passionate performance really keeps this album fresh even after multiple play throughs. Executed with unwavering confidence, the only real avenue for The Poisonous Path to lose marks lies in the fact that its far from revolutionary and not the most instantly memorable album. Steadfast as it may be, it doesn’t break any new ground abroad, regardless of how it stands in the band’s own discography. Miild gripes aside however, the tracklist really holds the listener by the throat from front to back with no glaringly weak moments found anywhere on this 56 minute hike through the lightless catacombs of Satan's abode. This is still the Behexen we know, but the added inspiration of grinding elements and more dynamically expressive songwriting has resulted in the band’s most accomplished work to date. It may have taken twenty years to get here, but these grumpy Finns show absolutely no signs of slowly down or losing their brazen passion for their work. The Poisonous Path is a skillful modern incarnation of the genre executed in a way that won't offend the great Norse gods of yore, and a trve must hear for anyone who enjoys unabashedly entertaining and energetic black metal.

(Originally published on http://www.sputnikmusic.com/review/72889/Behexen-The-Poisonous-Path)