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Behexen - The Poisonous Path

Behexen
The Poisonous Path
by Lauren Fonto at 31 December 2016, 11:58 AM

The members are veterans of the black metal scene, having served in the bands SARGEIST and HORNA, among others. Their experience shows on this album – the performances are tight, and the songs well-structured. Lyrics with a Santanic theme and a second-wave-style sound have been reiterated for decades, but some bands manage to avoid sounding derivative.

A few years ago, there was a black metal band from Cape Town, South Africa who had a number of stylistic similarities to BEHEXEN (name of the band withheld to protect the guilty!). Yet the band in question was ultimately derivative and did not have staying power. It’s hard to define exactly why BEHEXEN have avoided the trap of mediocrity. From a subjective standpoint, I found that there was a gravitas and emotional power to their music that “Anonymous Band” simply never had. The track “Umbra Luciferi”, for example, contained a vocal performance that sent shivers down my spine. And opener “The Poisonous Path” commands attention with its ominous, rich drumbeats.

Hoath Torog has a distinctive vocal style, being relatively low-pitched compared to most black metal vocalists. This style is contrasted with higher-pitched screams, such as those on the powerful intro of “Luminous Darkness”. The spoken words on “The Poisonous Path” were a nice surprise, and give an aural break in between the usual black metal elements. Church bells add a feeling of somberness and reverence. The chanting on several tracks adds to the church-like feeling of reverence, albeit in worship of a different deity. “Wand of Shadows”, for example, has an anti-Christian theme with contrasts with the kind of chanting which reminded me of Christian pageantry.

Main guitarists Shatraug and Wraath don’t disappoint with their “riffcraft”. Throughout the album, their guitar work shows staying power. “Sword of Promethean Fire” is a headbanger of note, while the riffs on “Luminous Darkness” are infectious. Guest guitarist Gargantum makes few appearances, but he makes each performance count. He creates a slow-burning solo on “Luminous Darkness”, and a haunting, bend-filled solo on “Rakkaudesta Saatanaan”. Besides having great riffs, the songs are well-written pieces that tie in well with each other. Blistering verses contrast with slower tempos – there is plenty to give the listener a good dose of blast-beats and lightning-fast guitars, and enough to give the listener little musical surprises. While I thought that the production could’ve been a bit better on Horns’ cymbal parts, his drumming is nonetheless showcased well. He is ferocious, focused, and versatile – a deadly combo, in the best way.

BEHEXEN have produced a work of dark beauty which is both familiar and unique. While it may be difficult to quantify exactly what makes them more compelling than the aforementioned “Anonymous Band”, I can definitely say that I very much enjoyed “The Poisonous Path”.

Songwriting: 8
Originality: 6
Memorability: 8
Production: 7

3 Star Rating

Tracklist:
1. The Poisonous Path
2. Wand of Shadows
3. Cave of the Dark Dreams
4. Sword of Promethean Fire
5. Umbra Luciferi
6. Luminous Darkness
7. Chalice of the Abyssal Water
8. Pentagram of the Black Earth
9. Gallows of Inversion
10. Rakkaudesta Saatanaan
Lineup:
Horns – Drums
Hoath Torog – Vocals
Shatraug – Guitars
Wraath – Guitars
Gargantum – Guitars (solo)
Record Label: Debemur Morti Productions
     


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