Beherit – Engram
Beherit has always been about the primitive. The Oath of Black Blood and Drawing Down the Moon pulverized black metal into lo-fi scree. H418ov21.C and Electric Doom Synthesis, solo projects of mastermind Marko Laiho, were ham-fisted amalgams of Casio tones and TR-909 percussion. This evolution recalls Burzum, though Beherit's black metal was better and its electronics much worse.
Thus, it's a shock to hear these Finns sound professional. Engram (Spinefarm, 2009) boasts huge production and relatively tight performances. The band hasn't turned technical; its trademark three-note riffs remain intact. It still likes to say "Satan" a lot. But its songs don't sound like first takes anymore. The beefed-up sound and more cohesive playing result in greater power. Before, Beherit, like much of black metal, subverted the element of power. Death metal took power to ridiculous extremes; black metal clawed, scratched, and hid behind makeup.
Now even Beherit's synths have muscle. They no longer sound like public-access TV soundtracks. Instead, their melodies arch over the top of the riffs. Personally, I'd prefer guitars to do that work. But at least Laiho escapes the symphonic trap that often befalls black metal. After 14 years, Beherit is back, with all its quirks intact. This time, though, it's eaten its Wheaties.
- Cosmo Lee