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Send me these evil words... - 87%

Mellifleur, September 13th, 2018

Bekhira is a band that is pretty well known to people who are serious about underground black metal, but not well known at all to other metal fans (even serious explorers of other underground metal genres). I would say it's a shame, because this album is classic, quality, 110% black metal, but it isn't a shame because this is 110% black metal with absolutely no crossover appeal whatsoever to any other kinds of music fans. That's not a problem for us, though. Right?

Bekhira formed, and put out a very nice demo, in the era of high-norsecore. This album is firmly rooted in the sound and style of that time, despite having come out in 2005 (well after many of the "innovations" that changed black metal such that most bands would no longer consider it cool to put out an album filled with vampyres and demonic hellhordes). The overall sound is very Norse and very 90's, though no one particular influence dominates. Emperor is the most straightforward comparison with the dramatic melodicism and the sense of grand scale in the surprisingly concise compositions. Gorgoroth's sharp guitar tone and grunt/shrieks are present. Other points of reference include Ancient and Enslaved, and outside of Norway (sorry to have to say it) even Cof (the acronym will be sufficient) with the sardonic tone of the "EVIL! Mwa ha ha!" misanthropic lyrics.

This oozes classic black metal aesthetic. Lots of treble. The bass present but not providing any kind of funky beat. This isn't especially representative of the French scene of the time, but it does feature Deviant Von Blakk of the ok Arkhon Infaustus and the pretty cool Osculum Infame so it is not without contemporary scene credibility. Plenty of blast beats, but used intelligently in the continental style to punch up the most dramatic points in the songs by being dropped out for less obtrusive fills. Evil. Monochromatic cover art. The WWII propaganda font for the album title on the cover is kinda goofy, but fitting the faux-militancy of this genre of high fantasy. Everything you want from black metal. The standout track is "The devil and the sorcerer" also called "Mephisto and the sorcerer" in some places. It has a steady stream of darkly dramatic (read: catchy) Norsecore riffs punctuating an over dramatic synth melody (which sounds somewhere between a fake violin and a fake pipe organ) which builds up to a quick crescendo and then segues into a series of unique bridge sections switching the lead between the guitar and the synth, to then wrap it up with the original peak on a grander scale. All in five minutes. Enslaved at the time would have taken at least nine. There's a fair bit of variety as well. "Impure blood shall flow" has an intro and slow moody parts, "Medieval death camps" is a full bore riff assault. Each riff flows naturally into the next riff and each song flows naturally into the next song. All very well put together. Easily top quintile percent black metal, in fact.

My one complaint is the inconsistency of the background white noise. It's a minor issue, considering this is raw black metal and all, but it is noticeable. Some songs have a distinctly louder background hiss, and if you have tinnitus like me you understand that while it is possible to ignore it when you are distracted, once you do hear it, it is very difficult to stop hearing it. Compare "The Devil and the Sorcerer" to "Impure Blood Shall Flow" which immediately follows: much cleaner. The change might not be as obvious on the vinyl version, and you can probably equalize it out if you want on either version.

The CD version lacks the tenth song "L'ere noire..." which is present on the vinyl version, but it's no great loss. When it is included with the album, it is the weakest song, and if you were to "somehow" obtain the track and tack it onto the end of the CD album it sounds rather out of place. "From the Most Devastated Lands" is a fine closing track, rounding out the album with a brisk, melodic track with some catchy, mellow leads in the bridge.

Check this out if you like Norsecore.