Purveyors of Black Metal filth BEHERIT return circa 1993 to release what would be the Finn’s last Metal album. Many would later laud this as the band’s best work boasting of the harsh atmosphere bleeding forth agony and pain. I do not buy the notion of focused genius many have claimed resides in this disk. I believe this album served as a bridge which would carry Nuclear Holocausto across the dangerous waters acting as a barrier between Metal and ambience. Dangerous waters indeed, as many have crossed to never be heard from again. So what ultimate purpose does this disk serve and does it offer us something special and unique? The answer is both yes and no.
“The Oath Of Black Blood” was a magnificent album. BEHERIT laid down the framework of textbook raw Black Metal. It featured intense speed, skull-splitting vocals which slapped a straight-jacket around the listener and held such a unique atmosphere one would be hard-pressed to find an album quite like it. “Drawing Down The Moon” attempts the aforementioned lofty goal but trips and fumbles upon itself long before ever completing its journey.
The first odd sign that this album is going in an altogether different direction is the quirky synth intro which tricked me into believing I was listening to “Daudi Baldrs”. Not long after, the ominous distorted vocals kick in lifting the atmosphere into a pleasurable realm of evil and hate. By the time “Salomon’s Gate” vomits from the speakers my interest is truly piqued. The first track provides a solid chunk of Black Metal with a mid-paced tempo (which already is a bad sign if you enjoyed “The Oath…”). When Nuclear Holocausto greets us once again I am pleased to find those trademark vocals which conjure up feelings of death and dismay. The disappointment does not come until later when we discover he must have left the diversity and perversity of his performance on the previous album in his other suit (sic). He still sounds grim, just not so unique anymore. Where are those high pitched shrieking screams combined with the thick accented growls? That is what made Holocausto so identifiable and mind-blowing. It was not a good sign early as I could tell by the second track he had taken a slightly different approach to his vocal work.
The guitar-tone is still bone-crushingly solid and provides the staple diet of plenty of fuzz and distortion which is essential to a Black Metal recording. It is also necessary to recognize that BEHERIT’s songwriting ability has increased. I suspect it is due to musical maturity and practice but these guys have come a long way. They seem to have mastered the ability to implement subtle mood-altering techniques through riff and tempo changes. The riffs utilized throughout the album are top-notch and a step above their previous work, but are unable to be given life due to the lack of intensity and aggression. If these guys would have utilized the speed and anger of “The Oath…” then this very well could have been the masterpiece looming on the horizon. Sadly the compositions are only allowed to truly shine in a couple of the early tracks which feature mid-paced slabs of raw evilness.
I must ask; where are the hellish solos which reeked of filth and intensity? Were they not evil enough or perhaps they did not fit in with the ambient direction Holocausto was taking this band? Either way a dimension of BEHERIT had been lost forever which I for one enjoyed. It may not be cult and true, but the solos were an interesting facet of this band and I think by removing them, they may just have removed one of the building blocks of the foundation of this band’s originality.
The uniqueness of this album lies in its awkwardness. One does not need to take a close examination of the record to notice all the bizarre ambience and electronic sampling which drags this album into oblivion. Some of it works (the sounding of horns in “Salomon’s Gate”) but much of it doesn’t. The eerie choir-like vocals of “Nocturnal Evil” and at the beginning of “Black Arts” do add a flair of mood but that mood refuses to be sustained when you arrive at the tracks “Nuclear Girl” and “Summerlands”. “Nuclear Girl” first sails by barely sustained by an ocean of electronic ambience fluttering through its sails which ultimately chokes and dies. “Summerlands”, in a similar vein, implements the sounds of…you guessed it, summer. Birds chirping and weird nature wounds may have worked for NOKTURNAL MORTUM but they do not work here. All the dread and cold depravity which had built inside me from the hate-filled tracks on this record quickly vanished and had me going, “…the Hell is that?”
Flaws aside, this album does have merit. It is obvious Nuclear Holocausto and co. were spinning their Black Sabbath records as this piece mixes a fair blend of doomy riffs with the varying quality of ambience throughout. Listen to this in the dark and it will inspire terror. With that being said, the feelings projected on the listener through the ambience and droning guitar melodies have been done much better by BEHERIT’s peers. I would take BURZUM, post “Hvis Lyset Tar Oss”, or Velvet Cacoon over this release any day. I simply do not understand all the hype this album has received and it in no way lived up to my expectations. That spark of energy and evil seeping from the filthy pores of “The Oath Of Black Blood” seems to have gone and run away on the chaps (Perhaps Holocausto’s vocals scared it away). Simply put, this is inferior to the Finns previous outing and they just did not bring their A game to the studio. (Online May 18, 2005)