Lodged back in the primeval sludge of turn of the decade Black Metal antiquity rests BEHERIT’S formative years, a time more readily recognized for abandoning any purpose other than shock and occasionally awe. This combination bears some resemblance to the coined term of America’s bombardment of Iraq in that the characteristic sound does a comparable number on the ears, functioning as a further exaggeration of the creepy, low fidelity quirks of HELLHAMMER and BATHORY that takes into account the further innovations of a number of Death Metal bands. But BEHERIT was unique for their inability to close the deal on a complete debut, in part due to putting a greater emphasis on recreational alterations of personal reality than studio work, thus leaving behind a string of demo and EP works that were all but fit for perpetual obscurity.
“At The Devil’s Studio 1990” was the almost but not quite culmination of one of the sloppiest, most grime ridden and putrid exercises in contempt for studio practices to be put together. It resembles the combination of “Demonomancy” and “Dawn Of Satan’s Millennium” in its production character, though there is a slightly greater level of clarity that falls just a tad short of being a rival to “Pure Fucking Armageddon”. The strength (or weakness depending on one’s preferences) of this album is the obnoxiously bass-heavy guitar tone that bears a strong resemblance to the grim character of early HELLHAMMER, married to a blinding riff set that is perhaps more likened to MORBID ANGEL on crack. A distant and thin drum production and a extremely muffled vocal sound tend to remove any level of coherence in the overall sound, thus the resulting chaos that few love, but most tend to react to with bewilderment.
There’s an obvious uniformity in style at work here that makes distinctions between songs all but completely unnecessary, except for maybe a truly devoted early 90s cult adherent with ears for the style. Among perhaps the most distinctive is likely “Whores Of Belial”, which showcases the band’s signature mixture of chaotic speed with slow creeping, Doom leaning drone riffs with a ton of mud on top. “Six Days With Sadistic Slayer” is another bruiser that highlights the heavy Death Metal tendencies of a fair share of the riff work. But perhaps the biggest draw towards comparisons with a number of Death Metal oriented outfits that most likely took influence from HELLHAMMER and CELTIC FROST is the extremely frenetic and almost random guitar soloing approach, all but providing a low-fidelity, fuzz drenched answer to Trey Azagthoth.
This is an album that will please the adherents and further alienate any one else. In other words, it’s the typical pre-2009 BEHERIT album. It can be regarded slightly more than its somewhat infamous cousin “The Oath Of Black Blood” in that it was an actual full length effort rather than a compilation passed off as such to placate a band with an uneven work ethic and a label needing a return on their investment, though it’s really just one more rung up the ladder that eventually led to the ironically amazing “Drawing Down The Moon." But for the pre-militant era of the genre when all there was to the style was a few offerings out of MAYHEM and the archaic repertoire of the first wave, it was definitely something in a group by itself, for what that is worth to the occasional history buff.
(Online August 2, 2011)