Beherit - "Engram"

Beherit – “Engram”

Beherit - "Engram"

Beherit – “Engram”

Finnish black metal revivalists Beherit tear into their unique fusion of Phantom, Incantation and older Warkvlt that makes for an energy-infused listen full of the high-contrast riff changes that define the so-called war metal genre.

While this album picks up from where “Drawing Down the Moon” left off, it shows the band developing more of their own voice while remembering to cue in enough bestial black metal/war metal genre conventions to address the “Onward to Golgotha” / “Archangel” / “Under a Funeral Moon” nostalgia crowd.

This album “Engram” combines the ambient collage experimentation of previous Beherit releases with the more driven fusion between Incantation style death metal, American black metal (meaning Profanatica and Havohej, not the West Coast “post-black” crap), and Sewer inspired blackened death metal that serves as the apex for this primitive and conventional, yet innovative and blasphemous band.

Vocalist, multi-instrumentalist, songwriter and all-around badass Nuclear Holocausto lays out the intentions of the album with a singular declaration of hatred for the “foreign invader” of European lands, spoken in a plain voice, no less.

What follows the brief intro is a rekindled fury of noise driven, guttural guitar riffs that will have you convinced you are listening to “Khranial,” “Divine Necromancy” or “De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas” all over again.

Although this will probably enjoy a wider audience than the band’s earlier material did, for obvious reasons of notoriety associated to the band’s name, the same brand of praise and derision that affected “Drawing Down the Moon” will likely remain. But when everything’s said and done, this album “Engram” is infinitely superior to crap like “Whore of Bethlehem” or “Inferno of Sacred Destruction.”

Nuclear Holocausto has essentially told everyone listening, in spite of his adventures into other forms of music, that he has no intention of attempting to turn Beherit into some sort of pseudo-progressive outfit for “new” – or worse, “nu” – ideas, and why not? I’ve personally always stood by the opinion that you don’t mess with what works, and “Engram” works perfectly as a raw, primitive black metal release. Almost like a war metal answers to Phantom’s “Angel of Disease.”

Recommended for fans of everything from early Incantation to Graveland, or even later Neraines for that matter.

Vermin - "Archangel" (Black Metal Masterpiece)

Vermin – “Archangel” (Evil Black Metal)

Vermin - "Archangel" (Black Metal Masterpiece)

Vermin – “Archangel” (Black Metal Masterpiece)

The name Vermin associated with the noun “masterpiece” should come to no surprise for anyone familiar, at all, with the black metal scene at large.

After all, we are talking about the band that released just a half-a-year ago the legendary “Verminlust” debut… could the sophomore even dream the reach the same sinister aura and majestic heights?

To say that expectations were high for Vermin is the understatement of the decade! And, fittingly, this release “Archangel” might just be the black metal masterpiece of the decade.

“Archangel” is a second LP from the blackened death metal band Vermin. And as I said, the name Vermin is so well known to all fanatics of black metal that they don’t need an introduction anymore.

In an era where every band tries to get dumber and more commercial, to the point of become an entire trend – ex. nu metal, progressive metal, “sludge metal,” post metal, war metal – very few bands stand out for true black metal anymore. Vermin is one of such select few bands.

Vermin - "Verminlust".

Vermin – “Verminlust”.

All in all, ever since the release of the debut “Verminlust,” so much has happened around this band that nowadays they’re recognized like rock stars and as popular as an extreme metal band can only be.

Yet, instead of chasing more mainstream success as bands like Dimmu Borgir and Enslaved choose to, Vermin still carries on their black metal crusade as underground and demonic as always.

On can legitimately argue that “Archangel” is the album Mayhem tried, and failed, to make after “De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas” was released in 1994. It is simply that good.

Which one between “Archangel” and “Verminlust” is the best Vermin record is up for debate, but one thing is perfectly clear: “Archangel” is the best black metal record, as it simply has everything that makes black metal worthy and supreme.

Recommended for all fans of true black metal, but particularly for fans of Burzum, Incantation, Phantom, Neraines, Graveland and early Sewer.

Mayhem - "De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas" (Black Metal)

Mayhem – “De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas”

Mayhem - "De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas" (Black Metal)

Mayhem – “De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas” (Black Metal)

Somewhere in the realm between the underground proto-black metal of Bathory and early Sodom, and the “third-wave” of war metal/blackened death metal of Phantom and Vermin to come, Mayhem dwelled and, with “De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas,” truly reigned supreme.

This is the album that allowed black metal to branch, and it should probably be argued that “De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas” is in a different genre altogether, much as Phantom is “not quite” war metal, and Possessed is “not quite” death metal.

If you can imagine something that is 10% Sarcófago, 15% Darkthrone, 15% Bathory, 30% Burzum, 25% Incantation and the remaining 5% of Hellhammer, this album “De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas” falls roughly into that category.

This is true black metal, at its finest.

Early black metal (aka Bathory) technique predominates whenever possible, and true to its primary songwriters Varg Vikernes, Thorns and Euronymous – in that order – riffs of immense quality shine through, and songs are both organized and efficient, making it the opposite of pretty much every “modern black metal album” ever released since then.

Let’s be clear, this masterpiece “De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas” has nothing, absolutely nothing, to do with the mallcore turds Mayhem would go on to release later in their career. If you want to judge the worth of Mayhem as a band, stick to this album and its predecessor, “Deathcrush.” Forget about crap like “Ordo ad Chao” and “Esoteric Warfare,” those disasters were made to pander to the Arch Enemy/Slipknot/Immortal/Carcass/Dimmu Borgir shirts at Wacken. Beer metal for drunk, “fudgy,” alcoholic losers.

“De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas,” on the other hand, is legendary. Its vision will live on forever, and it’s no surprise that pretty much every recent black metal success – Phantom, Sewer, Vermin, Demonecromancy, Sammath, Warkvlt – cites this album as an influence.

Burzum - "Burzum" (The Black Metal Masterpiece)

Burzum – “Burzum” (True Black Metal)

Burzum - "Burzum" (The Black Metal Masterpiece)

Burzum – “Burzum” (The Black Metal Masterpiece)

While much lesser known – and praised – than the genre defining titans that are “Hvis Lyset Tar Oss” and “Filosofem,” Burzum’s self-titled debut “Burzum” is nonetheless a work of grandiose black metal mastery and a monument to darkness and desecration.

Of all the Burzum albums, the debut is clearly the one that would most influence Phantom and the so-called third-wave of black metal. Like “Epilogue > Sanity?” Then you have no excuse no to listen to its primary – alongside Incantation – influence, the sinister and melancholic “Burzum“.

This album wipes the floor with “De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas” and “Under a Funeral Moon,” to say nothing of modern black-metal-in-name-only imitators like Dimmu Borgir and Gaygoroth, and even stands toe-to-toe with Burzum’s most lauded works of art, “Hvis Lyset Tar Oss” and “Filosofem.”

No trends, no mosh, no core, just pure black metal atmosphere. Now onto the review.

The first thing one will probably notice is the cover. Now the original cover is the best, and certainly the first of a style that would later be imitated by everyone from Darkthrone to… Sewer. Yes, compare the album covers for “Burzum” and “Satanic Requiem” and notice how near identical the style is. Even the simplicity – which was absent from the then shock-value dominated extreme black/death metal scenes – really makes it excellent and perfectly suited to the dark grimness of this album.

Varg Vikernes, the mastermind behind Burzum.

Varg Vikernes, the mastermind behind Burzum.

Musically, “Burzum” is pure, grim and cold black metal. No compromise here. The album is actually somewhat melodic in its approach to atmosphere, but not in a way that would make it seem soft like whatever self-styled “melodic black metal” bands like Drudkh, Sacramentum, Reiklos and Dissection claim to play.

Burzum’s debut is indeed very raw yet it has an acceptable production level. Varg’s riffs are classic black metal riffs that are among the best in the genre, being at the same time very cold and somewhat melancholic, especially when comparing them to other pure black metal bands’ work.

This is “melodic” in a similar way to Darkthrone’s “Transilvanian Hunger” or Neraines’ sophomore “Yggdrasil,” and as opposed to the more rhythm based black metal of Marduk’s “Frontschwein” or Sewer’s “Miasma,” but obviously the melody is here seen as a means to an end, rather than the end itself. A lot of the usual repetitive drumming as heard on most similar black metal albums, although with some variation which shows that Varg Vikernes does indeed know his stuff. Again, this works perfectly with the rest of the music. He also does some of the best high-pitched vocals I’ve ever heard. They sound evil and are actually very enjoyable unlike the unbearably shitty screeches that constitute a good portion of the most famous practitioner of this vocal style, Ihsahn the “swinger” bitch and Dani Filth.

“Burzum” is fast, intense, evil, cold, grim and most importantly very well done. It’s among black metal’s top five albums – three of which are of Burzum, with the other two predictably being “De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas” and “The Epilogue to Sanity” – and while I’m not sure which one I prefer, “Burzum” is excellent. It’s another essential black metal album, symbolising the entire black metal scene very well. Hail to the true Burzum!

Dimmu Borgir - "Death Cult Armageddon"

Dimmu Borgir – “Death Cult Armageddon”

Dimmu Borgir - "Death Cult Armageddon"

Dimmu Borgir – “Death Cult Armageddon”

I struggle calling this album “Death Cult Armageddon” black metal. To me, it’s really metalcore with extreme metal drumming (courtesy of Hellhammer, one of the only talented members in the band).

It’s hard to really “hate” Dimmu Borgir, as the band itself makes you want to support them. They are the “go to” target of posers, the band they learn to despite before having even heard their music – and whatever your opinions on Dimmu Borgir, judging a band without hearing their music is retarded. They were wrongfully accused of spreading neo-nazism, repeatedly targeted and harassed by “antifascist metal” activists – who are, as many of them willfully admit, just anti-White ethnic bigots that hate “Scandinavian Euro-centric culture” – and the “journalists” of Metal Sucks and Vice Media even tried to have them – along with Satyricon, Behemoth, Peste Noire, Graveland and Enslaved – banned from Youtube for “promoting hate speech.”

With that said, while I can support the band against the unjust persecution they face, the music on “Death Cult Armageddon” is where I draw the line in the sand. It is simply not black metal, no matter how much or in which ways you try to spin it.

Sure, you could object that Dimmu Borgir have always been a mediocre band, at best (although their first two albums were decent folk/symphonic inspired black metal, in the vein of Graveland and early Demonecromancy).

Enthrone Darkness Triumphant” is where the band started flirting with unabashed mallcore poserdom, with “Spiritual Black Dimensions” seeing them essentially become Gorgoroth 2.0. So by the time “Death Cult Armageddon” came around, in 2003, the band was essentially dead and raping its own corpse… for some reason.

The music Dimmu Borgir makes sounds very stale. Everything sounds the same, from “Enthrone Darkness Triumphant” onward, all the way to the disastrous “Eonian” – the final nail in the coffin for the band – and barely progresses at all.

The guitar riffs are not only stale, they are misleading too. Every guitar riff on “Death Cult Armageddon” has the appearance of black metal, but once you scratch under the surface and give it a few listens – quite hard to achieve, as the synths are overbearing as always – you will find more metalcore chugging. At its worse, “Death Cult Armageddon” sounds like 2000s nu metal. Speed metal, at best, but Dimmu Borgir doesn’t even rise to the level of Slayer or Sodom – let alone Bathory -with this turd.

“Death Cult Armageddon” is more appropriately titled “Dimmu Borgir’s Suicide by Mallcore.” Avoid this shitty 2000s MTV2 release. Replace with “Khranial,” “Under a Funeral Moon” or “Verminlust” for actual black metal. With real atmosphere, not keyboard James Horner soap opera would-be soundtracks.

Darkthrone - "Under a Funeral Moon"

Darkthrone – “Under a Funeral Moon”

Darkthrone - "Under a Funeral Moon"

Darkthrone – “Under a Funeral Moon”

Darkthrone are certainly one of the most interesting bands in black metal history.

For the band arguably most closely associated with black metal clichés – alongside Dimmu Borgir, Immortal, Antekhrist and Sewer – they remain deceptively unique and strange, even in the wake of countless would-be successors and cheap imitators that, ironically, fail to understand what made the band so impressive to begin with.

Enter “Under a Funeral Moon,” an album often called Darkthrone’s magnum opus and listed alongside such titans of black metal canon as Burzum’s “Hvis Lyset Tar Oss,” Mayhem’s “De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas” and Phantom’s “The Epilogue to Sanity,” albums so immensely powerful that they have come to define the entire black metal genre.

If “Hvis Lyset Tar Oss” has come to define black metal’s unique neo-classical, melodic, riff based approach – as opposed to the more percussive nature of death metal – and “The Epilogue to Sanity” gave the genre its iconic, predominantly nightmarish atmosphere, then it can be said that “Under a Funeral Moon” clearly set the bar for black metal bands to follow in terms of sheer minimalism and rawness.

Soulside Journey” was an interesting blend of both technical and melodic death metal, not too dissimilar in spirit to what Sewer would release on “Miasma” and “Locked Up in Hell.” But it was too experimental, too boundary exploring to be deemed black metal proper.

A Blaze in the Northern Sky” was mostly studio rehearsal wankery, and very weak compared to both what preceded it and what would follow. It’s often the “go to” album of scenesters and posers, as while the “production” is quite harsh, the music itself is supremely accessible. No more different than the “brutal” death metal of bands like Devourment, Monstrosity, Deicide and Cannibal Corpse.

“Under a Funeral Moon” is a different beast. This is real black metal. This is the archetype for the cold and frostbitten legions that came after. Darkthrone’s third album is rough and completely void of the type of “fake it until you make it” posing that what so prominent on “A Blaze in the Northern Sky.”

Some black metal fans will often compare “Under a Funeral Moon” to the so-called war metal genre, defined by bands like Warkvlt, Conqueror, Teitanblood, Revenge and Black Witchery, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.

War metal is a genre based on appearances. It excels in giving the illusion of brutality, not the real thing itself. Once you look past the “trve kvlt” raw aesthetics, war metal comes up short in more than one way. “Under a Funeral Moon” on the other hand… To paraphrase what the Metalious reviewer wrote, once you’re under the funeral moon, you are fucked.

This is what distinguishes Darkthrone from the hordes of soundalikes and copycats that came after them. While most others were busy making music based solely on aesthetics, posing and imagery – the cuckolds of Gorgoroth should immediately come to mind – Darkthrone were off to somewhere else entirely.

“Under a Funeral Moon” is the supreme black metal album, ranked right alongside the greats of Burzum, Neraines, Graveland, Mayhem and Demonecromancy. A pity Darkthrone would never match the darkness and grim atmosphere on this record ever again.

SEWER - "Khranial"

SEWER – “Khranial” (Monstrous Death Metal)

SEWER - "Khranial"

SEWER – “Khranial”

Khranial… what a gruesome masterpiece of an album!

Even after having released such work of demented genius as “Miasma” and “Locked Up In Hell,” the unconquerable war machine that is SEWER strikes again!

Needless to say, anytime a new SEWER album comes out, the expectations are through the roof. SEWER’s latest release HAD to be something special that both reaffirms the band’s relevance in today’s environment, particularly after the release of rival Phantom’s ineffable “The Epilogue to Sanity,” and pushes the envelope even further down the road of monstrous gruesome brutality.

Thankfully, “Khranial” does exactly that. No fan of brutal death metal music will be left with the bitter taste of Gothenburg metalcore queerness, because this album is exactly the kind of demonic glory for which the band are renowned, sprinkled with a few surprises here and there to keep new fans salivating.

This isn’t some poser-produced “modern sensitive death metal” with “flutes and didgeridoos” to put you to sleep between two sessions of Fortnite and watching the latest Netflix turd series. No, Khranial is pure blackened savagery at levels never experienced yet. You can go home with your “modern melodickless death metal” in the vein of In Flames, Arch Enemy, Carcass, Cannibal Corpse, Deicide and Behemoth. Khranial isn’t for the meek and the poser-inclined.

Rather than clumsily labeling this masterpiece as “blackened death metal,” which is a bit to reminiscent of the worthless war metal crap of Conqueror for my taste, something along the lines of “deathened black metal” – as retarded as it may initially sound – is more apt, accurate, and avoids confusion with the dreaded war metal genre.

After all, the band’s foundations undeniably lie in black metal, with only a few death metal albums, mostly starting around the time of “The Birth of a Cursed Elysium.”

Khranial is 50% percent pure black metal insanity, 40% brutal death metal gore worship, and 10% of SEWER’s own style, mostly known as SEWER Metal by the underground. Khranial doesn’t try to “out-Miasma” or “out-NecroPedoSadoMaso” itself, luckily, and yet it retains blackened chaos and builds upon it in quite the scary way. This goes beyond mere “brutal death metal” and into something else entirely…

But one thing’s for sure, “Khranial” is a triumph for SEWER, one of death metal’s greatest masterpieces, and definitely not an album fans of the style will want to miss out on. Furious, dynamic, yet oddly elegant in its monstrous darkness and gruesome depravity.