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Bound for Glory's Magnum Opus - 100%

metalatemybaby, May 10th, 2016
Written based on this version: 1996, CD, B.F.G. Productions

In the interest of full disclosure, I will admit that this is the record that changed how I felt about music forever. Specifically, before hearing "Behold...," knew music could be fast, technical, brutal, melodic, and catchy. What I didn't know is that music could be all of those things while also imparting an uplifing, worthwhile message through the lyrics and history behind them. I was 18 years old when I first heard this record (I'm 37 now), and I've spent every year between then and now listening to extreme metal of all genres. Nevertheless, nothing has ever surpassed "Behold..." as the absolute most meaningful album in my life.

Bound for Glory was coming off of "The Fight Goes On" when recording "Behold..." A departure from the band's first three albums, "The Fight Goes On" was decidedly heavier than BFG's first three studio releases and subsequently achieved far more commercial success than any previous effort by the band. (In fact, it is still often cited by fans as the band's best album, in large part due to its popularity at the time it was released.) "The Fight Goes On," however, did not make a full transition to metal, as lacking were double-bass kicks, a second guitarist, and more progressive song structures. "Behold..." addressed all of these musical considerations in legendary fashion.

BFG founding member Ed recruited a second guitarist, Dennis, to add depth and melodic harmony to the guitar passages of the new album. He also signed Mike, a new drummer, whose talents far exceeded any of the band's previous three studio drummers. In fact, Mike's effortless double-bass lines and mastery of the kit in general filled out Bound for Glory's sound tremendously, making "Behold..." light years ahead of earlier BFG releases.

Recorded in Ed's basement, "Behold..." unquestionably survives the test of time. (A remastered version has been made available as well.) Topically-driven songs such as "Fight On," which explores the plight of those living in formerly communist nations, and "Divided by Hatred," a condemnation of the senseless violence from the IRA in Northern Ireland, prove extreme metal can both entertain and enlighten. "To Untamed Lands We Sail," a chugging monster of a song defined by dueling solos from Ed and Dennis midway through the song, is the genre's definitive Viking tribute song--and, in fact, has been featured in several films as a result.

Ultimately, the album's most powerfully savage and emotional track is its final one. Entitled "Prelude to Stalingrad/Behold the Iron Cross," the record's finale begins with an instrumental prelude evocative of military equipment mobilizing and assuming position in advance of an attack. Following this prelude, Joel's vocals tear into the mix, exclaiming, "Sirens are wailing, systems are failing--another line has been overrun! Bombers in the air raining hatred and despair, so many that they cover the sun!"

These lyrics are, of course, about the launch of Operation Barbarossa in June 1941 against the communist Soviet Union. Joel's vocals highlight the extraordinary bravery shown by the Wehrmacht and Waffen-SS, yet also betray a sadness and sense of mourning for all those who were lost trying to save Europe from the Red Dragon. Individual heroes are recognized by name, but so, too, is the suffering endured by every combatant. Meanwhile, the music itself is a fury of thrashing guitars, galloping drums, and accentuating bass, all mixed to sound just like what it must be like on the front lines of such a massive, full-scale invasion.

Regardless of your politics or even your metal tastes, this album deserves a listen. Chances are, it won't be your only listen.