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Rituale Satanum (2000)
 

The most unfortunate thing about Behexen's debut album, Rituale Satanum, is that it emerged about seven or eight years too late. Released by Sinister Figure in July 2000, this L.P. has a great deal in common with the early-to-mid '90s output from the Norwegian Black Metal scene. In many ways, Behexen picked up from where Gorgoroth left off, as they traveled down a mediocre path and left their trademark sound behind, this Finnish band carried on the legacy of Pentagram and Antichrist.

The music features a lot of ideas similar to those that were explored on the aforementioned Gorgoroth full-lengths. There is the utilization of a good number of fast tremolo-picked riffs that owe a lot to Darkthrone and Mayhem, while also employing some open chord sections reminiscent of Burzum. In addition, a healthy does of Thrash is injected, here and there, hearkening back to the early songwriting of Infernus, who seems to have influenced Gargantum's guitar-playing. This also includes the tendency to toss in rather epic melodies. If that was not enough, Hoath Torog's vocals are very similar to Hat and Pest, being very high-pitched and nearly indecipherable. There are some instances of deeper vocals being added as well, which is quite unnecessary and taints the songs a bit. Most all of the songs are dominated by a fast tempo, up until "Saatanan Varjon Synkkyydessä", which slows things down a little. Even as the drumming picks up, the riffs are still mid-paced and possess a morbid feeling. Still, the Norwegian feeling is present for the most part. "Baphomet's Call" is where the material takes on more of a Finnish sound, bearing similarities to Horna.

This record has fairly decent production. It suits the style, though there is something disingenuous about it. The guitars are the most prominent element in the mix, which is dead on, but the distortion does not seem right. The fuzziness appears to be coming more from the bass than the guitar, and it is a little too loud. This helps to add to the raw sound, but it gives off more of a feeling that they were trying to get a grim sound with nice equipment, rather than recording in a truly lo-fi manner. The drums are loud enough to do the job, but kept in the middle where they are not able to interfere with the riffs. The vocals are slightly buried, but this probably helps a lot since one cannot really tell what Torog is saying anyway, and it cannot be said enough that the riffs should always be the most important thing in Metal.

Rituale Satanum is a solid record and is a must-have for anyone that was saddened to see Gorgoroth degenerate the way that they did, after their first few records. This has just about everything that one would want in a follow-up to Under the Sign of Hell, just at a slightly lower level of quality. This beats anything that the other Finnish bands, such as Horna and Clandestine Blaze, were up to at this point. This L.P. really does not offer up anything new or original, but for those that are into the Norwegian sound, this should be a great addition to your collection.
 
(23 Nov. 2011)

 
 

Behexen is not the most prolific band in the Finnish Black Metal scene. Having been in existence since 1996, they have only released three full-length albums, along with two demos and two split releases. By the Blessing of Satan, their sophomore effort, was released by Woodcut Records in March 2004, four long years after their debut record. Though Horns and Hoath Torog were also working on Sargeist during this period, there was still plenty of time to write music for Behexen. One would imagine that, with such an opportunity, they would have gone over each song until they were all perfect, but this was not the case.

The first thing that most people notice, upon listening to this, is that the production is horrible. Everything is too loud, and the overall effect is too abrasive. The bass and drums are both too high in the mix, which is especially evident during the double bass parts. It does not sound as if any single element has enough room to breathe; in a sense, it has all been compressed into a small space. At times, it is difficult to focus on the guitar melodies, of which there are many impressive ones that get buried beneath everything else, such as the latter half of "Fist of the Satanist". The layer of fuzz that was present on Rituale Satanum is still there, but also unable to have the same effect due to the wretched mix. The guitar riffs would, likely, have a cold feeling if not for the way everything comes together, which ends up creating more of a hellish feel. Many will ignore the album, right off the bat, based on the overwhelming noise level; however, it is really worthwhile to tolerate and adapt to the harsh sound in order to appreciate the music, as there is something going on beneath all of the chaos.

As for the songwriting, itself, one can tell that Behexen mixed several different influences and the result is not always positive. In particular, songs like the title track and "Celebration of Christ's Fall" bear several elements that simply do not belong. At times, they sound reminiscent of Dark Funeral, with the horrible deep vocals overdubbed, boring riffs and overactive blast beats. Thankfully, the really bad tracks are in the minority. The rest of the material demonstrates a mild level of influence from the likes of Bathory and Darkthrone, with the old school style of riffing. There are also traces of Burzum, heard in the use of the open-arpeggio riffs. The strongest inspiration seems to come from Mayhem, as evidenced by the cold and nocturnal tremolo melodies that are present in most of the songs. For the most part, the arrangements allow for a decent amount of variation, mixing mid-paced and fast sections and doing well to create a morbid atmosphere, at times. By the Blessing of Satan possesses many good riffs, but there are also a number of mediocre ones that should never have made it to the final stage. One surprising thing that the band did was to include an eerie lead guitar solo on "Black Metal Baptism", which displays just how powerful solos can be when used properly. It is a shame that most Black Metal bands choose to ignore this element.

By the Blessing of Satan does not reach the same level as its predecessor, Rituale Satanum, but it certainly has its moments. There are only two songs that are worth skipping past, while tracks like "Under the Eye of Lord" deserve repeated listens. At its best, this record creates a dark and sombre atmosphere that will haunt you for countless nights. Give this a try.
 
(27 Nov. 2011)
















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