Saturday, September 24, 2011

Bethlehem - Dictius Te Necare (1996)

Dictius Te Necare is the second full-length album from Bethlehem, and represents somewhat of a departure from the sound that they established on 1994's Dark Metal. The title is Latin and translates to "You must kill yourself". Inside the booklet, one can see the dedication to all suicide victims. Released in Aprl 1996, through Red Stream, this record introduces a new member of the band and a different approach to creating the same type of atmosphere as before. Replacing Andreas Classen as vocalist is a character by the name of Landfermann, whose style is quite different and much more extreme than what most were doing around that time. This is most notable because it is the vocal performance, more than anything else, that has managed to polarize the opinions of listeners for the past decade and a half.

"Schatten aus der Alexander Welt" was the first song that I heard from this album, and it begins things with a high level of intensity. From the opening moments, the terrifying shrieks of Landfermann grab your attention and one only notices the musical differences after taking time to digest this shocking change. For those familiar with Varg's vocals on the early Burzum albums, this is still a little much to take in, as it is far more over-the-top. There is some variety in the vocal delivery, but the insane screaming and demented howling dominate the sound. Musically, this track sounds more like Black Metal than Doom, sort of like Dark Metal in reverse. The fast drumming and tremolo riffs, along with the tortured wailing gives one the impression that this is a different band, altogether. There are brief sections that are very calm, utilizing clean guitar to create a dismal feeling, but these serve only to bridge different parts of the song, really. Near the middle, there is a riff that sounds as if it was inspired by Hellhammer / Celtic Frost, so there is even more of an argument for the Black Metal material that is present on this record.

The next song is "Die Anarchische Befreiung Der Augenzeugenreligion", which starts out with a much slower pace while retaining the tormented screams and the overall depressive feeling. With that said, this does not come close to the darkness found on the previous L.P. There is a decent amount of variety in the riffs and tempos, but they do not work together to create a cohesive feeling. Instead, it seems very inconsistent and each riff has a purpose all its own, having little or nothing to do with the track as a whole. The song is not bad, but it does not accomplish enough to justify the fact that it stretches beyond nine minutes in length.

"Aphel - Die Schwarze Schlange" is one of the highlights of the album. It begins with a tremolo riff that instills a sense of tension and dread in the listener, with distant howls that soon come to the forefront with a venomous fury. This tempo does not last long before a thrashier riff comes along and alters the vibe for a few moments. As this schizophrenic piece continues, a calm section with only clean guitar and the ravings of a total maniac soon explode into a Black Metal-inspired frenzy. This carries on, with the pace changing quite often, until the latter half of the song. Things get very quiet and subdued, with a clean melody that comes to you like a cloaked figure offering a fresh blade. The almost muffled vocals urge you to take the knife and to caress your flesh with the cold steel. And then, it happens... all conscious thought fades as you are overwhelmed by the utter misery of the riff that follows. With ease, the blade slides into your skin and the blood comes gushing out. The wound is deep, and the tormented howls and anguished cries echo those that reside within your feeble spirit, as your body collapses to the ground in a crimson pool.

The pace picks up a bit with "Verheißung - Du Krone Des Todeskultes", which is absolutely necessary to ensure the listener is alive long enough to hear the entire album. There is some odd effect on the vocals, and the riffs are not as overtly bleak, but it improves as it goes along. The main feeling is negative and somewhat sombre, but not to an agonizing extent.

"Verschleierte Irreligiosität" is a re-recorded version of "Veiled Irreligion", from Dark Metal. As with the rest of the album, the lyrics are in German this time, which actually adds something to the atmosphere. There are some changes in the arrangement, helping to accentuate the style of this album, but in the end the original possessed a much darker and more depressing atmosphere.

The next song is "Tagebuch Einer Totgeburt", which is one of the other highlights of this record. From the acoustic intro to the mournful guitar riffs and woeful cries, this is utter misery and hopelessness captured on tape. Whereas many of the songs feature sections that do not mix well with the rest, everything here comes together to build a sense of despair and sorrow. Rather than being filled with the urge to end your own existence, this inspires more of a feeling of laying in the floor, lifeless, waiting for death to come to you instead.

"Dorn Meiner Allmacht" brings the album to its conclusion, utilizing much less despondent riffs and going for a heavier doom approach, in a way. It is the second-longest track on here, and is somewhat disappointing. While it works well as a Doom Metal song, it does not convey any powerful feeling, so it comes across as a bit of a letdown.

Dictius Te Necare is a good album and contains some of the best songs of Bethlehem's career. As opposed to the last album, where there was a mixture of Black, Death and Doom Metal, this is mostly a combination of Black and Doom. However, when all is said and done, it lacks the oppressive atmosphere of pitch-black darkness that characterized Dark Metal. It is almost as if they counted on the vocal performance to take care of that moreso than the music, itself, and did not put the same effort into all of the songs. At any rate, this is a solid album and well worth picking up, though it could have been even more essential had it possessed a similar vibe to the previous record.