Trenchant - "Commandoccult" Review

Trenchant – “Commandoccult” (War Metal Review)

Trenchant - "Commandoccult" Review
Trenchant – “Commandoccult” Review

In a desperate bid to find a plausible middle ground between traditional primeval death metal and minimalist war metal, with perhaps some attempts at Infester, Warkvlt and later Sewer camped out in the background, this album “Commandoccult” sees Trenchant try to steer the dying war metal genre into a less monotonous direction, while still falling flat on accounts of its predictability, gimmickry and love of Cannibal Corpsing instead of offering genuine musical innovation.

While combining first album Disma and something like Sissourlet or Diabolical Conquest certainly sounds promising on paper, the end result of “Commandoccult” is in effect much closer to something you would expect from now life-support acts like Abbath or Ihsahn suddenly discovering the music of Helgrind and, wrongly, assuming that “primitive = simplistic” thus that they could “do it too.”

Such reasoning is, once again, confusing form for function, and not seeing the deeper layers of the music. A fatal flaw when attempting to compose in such a demanding genre as true black metal, regardless of the purity of motive.

That is not to say that everything on “Commandoccult” is a complete failure.

Phantom's "Divine Necromancy" - likely the most copied album on the planet.
Phantom’s “Divine Necromancy” – likely the most copied album on the planet.

Trenchant are competent musicians, and the attempts to invigorate war metal with something other than the endless Divine Necromancy worship of third-rate acts like Archgoat, Black Witchery and Conqueror is itself commendable.

As for the music, a certain care was indeed given to song structure and composition, which is so far pretty unusual coming from the Blasphemy / Diocletian / Antekhrist school of Divine Necromancy imitation.

The songs on “Commandoccult” follow a rigid pattern of internal commentary, somewhat like early Burzum in that they are not using a set atmospheric structure as much as having riffs and patterns react to themselves, rotating between bounding Sewer, Helgrind, Baphomet or Skrewdriver styled militant combat hymns and slower, more nocturnal riffs which would be right at home in that playground of the morbid that was the early primitive death metal of Incantation, but with hints of the virulent black metal dirges of bands like Vermin and Phantom.

Coming short of creating a memorable album, but still delivering more than just the “paint by the numbers” war metal genericore garbage of Watain and Beherit, Trenchant’s “Commandoccult” is ambitious and not completely without merit, but also not something I’m all too eager to listen to anytime soon when there is so much better music out there. Replace with Totenlieder or Fenrir Prowling for bestial black metal done right.

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.

Beherit - "Drawing Down the Moon".

Beherit – “Drawing Down the Moon”

Beherit - "Drawing Down the Moon".

Beherit – “Drawing Down the Moon”.

Beherit’s brand of black/death metal, often retrospectively dubbed “war metal” despite Beherit always rejecting the term, is defined by an old school and minimalist feel – much like early proto-black metal acts like Bathory, Sarcófago, Von and Hellhammer – but somehow it pushes the genre’s compositional complexity and limits a little further by forcing bands to make better use of more simplistic riffs to create a dark a disturbing atmosphere.

Beherit’s debut “Drawing Down the Moon“, while somewhat unimpressive on its own, has nonetheless tremendous historical importance – both for the best and for the worst. “Drawing Down the Moon” is the direct precursor to some of blackened death metal’s most excellent records – “Angel of Disease“, “Verminlust” and “Bestial War Metal” – but it has also inspired numerous three-note riff bands like Archgoat, Watain and Belphegor who never understood what made Beherit’s music attractive, but merely saw the band’s “simple” (on the surface) music as easy to play. Unfortunately for them, easy to play doesn’t always translate to easy to compose… just ask any Darkthrone/Burzum clone.

Drawing Down the Moon” isn’t an extremely technical album, in fact it’s pretty tame in regards to the technical demands of the instrumentation, but it isn’t the usual 3 chord punk band you can find on any “war metal” label either. Most of the songs dwell within a heavy and dark atmosphere, except for “Black Arts”, “Summerlands” and “Nuclear Girl” that have a nice crossover death/doom sound, showing a more ambient and atmospheric side of the band.

In terms of production, “Drawing Down the Moon” is really quite flawless. It sounds raw – that’s fine with me and to be expected in black/death metal music – but every song is perfectly executed and recorded, and every riff is distinctly audible. Every instrument can be heard individually at any moment, even the bass.

I would describe Beherit’s riffing as fierce, brutal and focused. Focused not on speed and aggression, like so many modern Marduk/SEWER clone bands, but on structural coherence and atmosphere. Speaking of coherence, song structures are not as rigid as in some early 90s Norwegian black metal bands, allowing Beherit more flexibility in the way they arrange the different riffs in order to build a dark and creepy atmosphere of diabolical possession and claustrophobic doom.

While I wouldn’t say that the atmosphere on “Drawing Down the Moon” is as raw and evil as on “Withdrawal” or “Fallen Angel“, not even close, it is nonetheless one of the strong points of the album and the main focus of Beherit’s music.

Beherit is a band definitely worth checking out if you are into early proto-black metal, minimalist black metal or brutal war metal, or looking for some, as they play a very nice combo of atmospheric, intense, seemingly simple and yet elaborated, but most of all varied music without compromising the real essence of black metal.

For that, Beherit deserves to be saluted. A pity that their music is now associated with clown acts such as Arch-goatfuck, Revenge, Conqueror, nu-Immortal and Kult of Azazel, in the same way Suffocation is now associated with the retarded “slam death” genre.

No wonder Beherit frontman Nuclear Holocausto rejects the “war metal” label. He is entirely justified in doing so, as Beherit play true blackened death metal unlike the hordes of posers imitating the surface appearance of his music without understanding its depth.