Friday, November 25, 2011

Beherit - Engram (2009)

Following the release of Drawing Down the Moon, Nuclear Holocausto turned Beherit into a solo ambient project and released two albums that had very little to do with what the band had become known for, other than in spirit. After this, he seemed to fall off of the face of the earth for well over a decade. By late 2008, however, he was rejoined by Sodomatic Slaughter and a couple of fresh members as Beherit entered the studio once again. In April 2009, Spinefarm Records released the product of this unholy session, Engram.

"Axiome Heroine" starts with a mid-paced riff that is accompanied by keyboards. The atmosphere is dark and ritualistic, as the doom-laden riffs roll forward like rusted tanks that have just been reawakened. The first part of the song serves to lull the listener into a trance-like state, receptive to the wickedness soon to follow. Once the main riff emerges from the fog, it is clear that the beast known as Beherit has truly returned. The music possesses more of a pure Black Metal feeling, with the guitar taking on a colder and thinner tone, rather than the deep sound of Drawing Down the Moon. This raw sound is more in line with The Oath of Black Blood, in a sense. The song is rather short, as the fast guitars and blasting drums give way to the same mid-paced riff from the beginning.

The next song is "Destroyer of Thousand Worlds", which is classic Beherit; fast-paced riffs, barbaric drumming and demonic vocal delivery. This is reminiscent of "Dies Irae", by Bathory. This is interesting as it is an influence not so easily heard on the band's previous outings. The band gives off an intensity not heard in many years in this very straightforward track.

"All in Satan" is another high-speed song that passes by all-too-briefly. There is almost no variation, whatsoever, and yet it works so well within the context of the band's style and the overall album. There is a strange keyboard passage that reminds of the Halloween III score, slightly, and adds an eerie feeling to the song. As with the rest of the tracks, the drumming is very crisp and dry, being less prevalent in the mix and allowing the riffs to become the primary focus.

"Pagan Moon" starts with a very brief intro that features a sombre acoustic guitar and the sound of a raging fire. A mid-paced riff soon comes along, driving the song forward at a deliberate pace. The arrangement of the album is quite well thought-out, using this slower track to give a bit of a rest and to allow the dark message to slowly seep into the the now-exhausted mind of the listener. The funeral bells are a nice touch, adding a morbid feeling to the song. This continues as the music fades, along with the return of the flames.

Next up is "Pimeyden Henki", which is even darker than the previous songs. It begins at a slow pace, with woeful clean vocals and more of an emphasis on the sorrowful bass lines. This soon shifts to a faster tempo, as the tremolo riffs carve through the listener's soul and the occult vocal delivery evokes spirits of pure evil. Holocausto's voice is more raspy and this suits the music much better. Later in the song, the pace slows down again and a mournful choir rises from the depths of Hell. Once more, things shift back to the faster riffs which carry the song to its conclusion.

"Suck My Blood" is one of the more direct and unpretentious tracks, going straight for the kill. The fast tremolo riffs are quite memorable and there is a clear structure to the song. The vocals are nightmarishly evil, especially during the calm section in the middle, where all goes silent with the exception of the demonic voices and a subtle bit of synth. The main riff rushes forward, once more, hacking and slicing through all in its path. This is the sort of material that would not have sounded out of place on one of the band's earliest releases.

The closing track clocks in at over fifteen minutes, but seems like more of an extended outro than anything else. "Demon Advance" is much slower than the rest of the songs and utilizes some odd effect on the guitar which gives it an otherworldly feeling. After a while, the guitars fade away and leave only the synth, bass and drums, creating a strange atmosphere. The guitars take several minutes to return, and they never do play a very prominent role. This does not work so well as an individual song, but does better within the context of the album, as a whole.

Engram is surprisingly good and witnesses not only the rebirth of Beherit but also their return to Black Metal. Having become some obscure cult act from the past, influencing many of the more recent bands in the scene, it is only fitting that Nuclear Holocausto and his band mates have re-emerged to add to the coming darkness. This should certainly appeal to fans of The Oath of Black Blood and Drawing Down the Moon.