Global economic recession, swine flu, terrorism... just about the perfect for a new BEHERIT album, don’t you think? Perfect time indeed, though I have to say that this particular reunion (and resulting album) came absolutely out of nowhere... very stealth-like of these demonic Finns. What caught me even more off guard was how good this album actually turned out to be, something I had not foreseen since mainman Nuclear Holocausto (now known as Nuclear Holocausto Vengeance, for extra kvltyness you see) has repeatedly stated over the years that he had pretty much lost his passion for extreme music. Don’t fret though, for he and his unholy cronies have clearly reconnected with their inner beasts again and “Engram” is a fine slice of uncompromising Black Metal.
The name of the game here is mostly straightforward riff-driven Black Metal with a pronounced 80s Thrashy undercurrent (think early BATHORY), topped off with effective drone/chant touches that hark back to their classic “Drawing Down The Moon” material. The annoying electronic ditties that marred “H418ov21.C” and “Electric Doom Synthesis” are nowhere to be found, and this is great news since this band has always been at their best when they churn out raw Black Metal that’s as headbang-able as they are undeniably eerie. These two elements are in full force on this album (yay!), with the two tracks that bookend the album (“Axion Heroine” and “Demon Advance”) being perfect examples of their ability to marry the feral with the mystical. The former gets right down to business with a very “Under The Sign Of The Black Mark”-ish riff before the focus shifts to a very effective and moody keyboard melody that gives the song a very tangible ritualistic vibe. The album closer is easily the most adventurous thing on here – a 15 minute Doom stomper that alternates smoothly between forlorn ambient drone and hulking Doom riffs. In between these two killer tracks lurk more blackened goodies, whether its the ultra-aggressive “Under A Funeral Moon”-like one-two punch of “Destroyer Of Thousand Worlds” and “All In Satan”, or the epic “Pagan Moon” with its PRIMORDIAL-esque Celtic flavoured intro and hypnotic main riff. It’s simply solid all the way through.
While it’s true that this album doesn’t quite have the gloriously unhinged atmosphere of “Drawing Down The Moon” I have no qualms over naming this their best effort yet. It is more focused and riff-heavy than anything they’ve done before, and the relatively more linear approach found here lends the songs more impact that the fluid structure of some of their past works would have. Nuclear Holocausto Vengeance sounds positively seething when belting out those croaky rasps and his chanted/whispered incantations on tracks like “Pagan Moon” and “Pimeyden Henki” adds a creepy ritualistic atmosphere that acts as perfect counterpoint to the serrated guitar work. Drummer Sadomatic Slaughter is the only other member remaining from the early days, and his drumming is extra aggressive this time and more than adequately backed by relative newbies Ancient Corpse Desekrator (guitars) and Twisted Baptizer (bass). Uh yeah – these pseudonyms are hilarious!
In conclusion, this is a great return to form for this much-missed bunch of sonic terrorists and ample proof that they have more than enough blackened hate left in the tank to provide the perfect soundtrack to these tumultuous times we live (and die) in.
(Online May 30, 2009)