How does a band take a style more than 20 years into its history and keep it relevant and exciting? How does an act play orthodox, second wave black metal in the style of the Scandinavian greats, without outright copying their past work? Somehow, Finland’s Behexen has managed to do these things, all in an exhilarating fashion.
Along with bands like Taake, Azaghal and Arckanum, Behexen has long been a reliable battle cruiser in the fleet of early-90s style black metal. But they have, at times, fallen into the trap of overproduction and predictability (particularly on My Soul for His Glory). And while I’m not as strict as some people in this regard (see: Fenriz), it’s true that this can sap the atmospheric power that makes black metal so compelling.
They don’t make that mistake on this record. On The Poisonous Path, Behexen combines great riffs and songwriting with the right blend of clarity and grit in production to make a fantastic black metal experience. The only complaint I would have is that the album can be a little too noisy in places. I know metal is “noisy” by definition, but in this case, it can be hard to make out the individual notes. It’s as if the studio’s cleaning staff walked in and started vacuuming during the drum or vocal sessions. But of course, if you have any control over the audio EQ on your computer or stereo, you can probably mitigate some of this. It’s the kind of sound that may be repellent at first, but just needs a moment to let you sink in.
Still, the content here is excellent, and contains all the ingredients of great black metal. On The Poisonous Path, Behexen play a style of black metal that melds the blasting drums and melodic riffing of Dark Funeral with the barbaric brutality of their countrymen in Archgoat. At the same time however, the musical style and choice of song titles gives the album a thick air of mystery and power. Though there’s nothing wrong with creating second wave orthodox black metal, it’s encouraging to see a band use evil themes in a more interesting way than shouting “SATAN” over and over again.
While much of the album has a very consistent (some would even say predictable) sound, there are still some interesting moments peppered throughout. On “The Wand of Shadows,” listen for the operatic vocals in the background, which are eerily reminiscent of Atilla’s legendary performance on “De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas.” The chimes on the album’s title track are particularly well-placed, as they contrast well with the ferocity of the rest of the music. There is also the punishing crunch of “A Sword of Promethean Fire.” Hoath Torag’s reverb-soaked vocals are a perfect fit for this album, but are particular effective on this song.
If you’re looking for a chaotic, yet captivating take on pure, straightforward black metal: listen to The Poisonous Path. If you don’t like straightforward black metal, well, we don’t really have much to discuss then, do we?
Favorite Songs: “The Wand of Shadows,” “Chalice of the Abyssal Water”, “The Poisonous Path,” “A Sword of Promethean Fire”