Conjure an image of an immense labyrinth of bleak proportions stretching to the edge of blurred vision. The walls of the maze are constructed of hearty stone scorched black and perhaps containing splotches of crimson around certain corners. Perils of dire proportions wait around every turn, skulking in silence and waiting for prey like a demented serial killer who would have his victim fall right into his lap. The unlucky fellow who has been sequestered to this scarred land is none other than you, the listener. The maze, BEHEXEN’s “By The Blessing Of Satan” of course.
Such a comparison is intrinsically applicable due to the fact this such release contains a signature sound consisting of an organic maelstrom of activity encapsulating blast beats, furious scathing riffs and a leviathan of a vocalist. The fury created is so dense and all encompassing that the usual application of “wall of sound” does not aptly fit, at least if you wish to due such a release justice. This labyrinth is a seething puzzle challenging the listener to delve into its depths and pick the glorious melodies from its clutches. Indeed, for if one searches through the torrent quite a few beautiful tremolo picked lines can be depicted and give credence to the fact that there is quite a bit of musical exercise going on in the depravity, for this release is not simply a blasting Norsecore affair.
The single best word to describe the whole of this album’s unique sound is manic. Not manic in a DARKNESS DESCENDS face ripping kind of way, but manic in the sense that this piece attempts and quite naturally succeeds, at creating a multitude of order from a scattering of chaotic musicality. To call the effect busy or complex would be an understatement and an exercise in futility. The riffs splitting skin at the forefront can become quite muddled in areas and succeed at raising the overall level of brutality. This however is not why this album is great. It is great due to the focused strings of melody found underneath the scorched surface. This requires some effort and focus to fully experience the surreal nature of the compositions but is altogether worth it.
The vocals have a solidified position within the maze and act as a rather lethal double-edged sword. At one moment they may consist of a bloody rasp of a tortured soul before immediately leaping to a deeper hellish growl from the pit of the stomach. When the faster tempos kick in and things begin to blur Torog’s voice can become quite callous and meld into the sound like another instrument adding subtle clarity. An effect is also present during certain moments where the vocals will be given a sort of swirling phantom effect where the voice seems to trail off in the chaos before re-submerging only to tear through your ear-drums like a nail being driven into the side of your head. The atmosphere created when this occurs is truly amazing and altogether alien.
“By The Blessing Of Satan” is a unique album which must be experienced by any fan of Black Metal containing tempos of upwards 200 beats per minute. Because the sound created is so foreign and unique this album is warranted to be played quite frequently and is perfect when one is in a deranged state of anger that is seeking something a little more subtle and less accessible than Death Metal or the standard Black Metal affair. The only dead-ends found in this labyrinth is the fact that it comes across as slightly bloated during tracks like “Watchers Of My Black Temple” which wanders off for 8 minutes. Cutting down the length could have improved it somewhat in my book but is not an altogether huge deterrent warranting a large deduction of points.
Take the journey and enter the enthralling and ever-changing conundrum of manipulation…or shrug it off and go listen to something much simpler and less demanding. If you take the plunge you will not regret it. (Online August 1, 2005)