Behexen - By the Blessing of Satan
Woodcut Records
Black Metal
7 songs (47:27)
Release year: 2004
Reviewed by Charles
Archive review
There are those, casual observers with a passing curiosity, perhaps, who see extreme metal (by which I mean black, death and thrash) with a painful simplicity. It’s about the riffs, man. You’ve got your heavy guitar tone and your blastbeats, and your harsh vocals, and your brutal guitar parts, and there you have it. Metal that does what it is supposed to do. These admirers of adequacy share plenty of common ground with those benighted souls that ridicule black metal “elitists” for clamouring for nebulous qualities such as “atmosphere”, rather than tangibly awesome riffs. There must (I hypothesize without any evidence) be substantial overlap between these two groups of philistines. Because if you ignore the importance of emotion and atmosphere, then you can’t explain why Behexen’s Under the Eyes of the Lord is awesome, and Goatwhore’s Carving out the Eyes of God (to pick an example entirely at random) is just decent.

Of course there are riffs here. Rabid, mouthfoaming riffs, that wield the pitchfork in honour of their infernal inspiration with an exuberant fanaticism that hasn’t been matched by their light-dwelling opponents since the Spanish Inquisition. They are so dense and vicious, like innumerable wild dogs moving as one pack, that the relentless percussive blasting has to assume a truly staggering power so as not to be flattened. It takes invention as well; the surprising syncopated stabs that punctuate tracks like Watchers of my Black Temple add a layer of rhythmic intensity that can’t be achieved by force alone. The vocals are quintessential black metal; hoarse-voiced screeching that rants away in defiance of the maelstrom that threatens to swallow it whole.

There is also melody; albeit it in its truncated black metal “short tune fragments converted into plaintive riffs” sense, which here lend the album real immediacy. The closer and best track, Under the Eye of the Lord, masterfully balances genuinely poignant tonality with spitting ferocity and a viciously powerful sound. This was a balance that topples over slightly in closely-related projects such as Sargeist (featuring two Behexen members), which squeezed out more tunefulness at the expense of sheer force. This is a far more potent mixture. But compositionally, what is even more clever are the slow-burners. I don’t know another black metal band that manages to reproduce the booming, grooving thud that characterise the slower sections of this album. In fact, I can think of few that even attempt it. As the blasting of Sieluni Saatanan Vihasta Roihuten collapses in on itself a couple of minutes into the song, we are treated to the sound of an unforgettable, lumbering riff looming out of the feedback fog like Satan himself; truly eerie. On Watchers of my Black Temple, a similar beast opens the song, in turn giving way to a truly neckbreaking acceleration. Black metal songcraft at its finest.

But back to where we began; By the Blessing of Satan’s main strength is intangible. It exudes malevolence, it has such an energy. Every note sounds like religious fanaticism, which if you read the lyrics it is, of a sort. In part this must be aided by the sheer depth and strength of the sound. Not for Behexen the scratchy garage-feel of Horna, or the tinny fuzz of fascist goons Satanic Warmaster. This is a cavernous, reverberating mass, which despite its power, never comes close to feeling “clean”. The music and its performance wouldn’t allow it.

This is their best full-length release, quite comfortably, I would say. It is more forceful than its predecessor, and more interesting than last year’s My Soul For His Glory. Whilst it is, undoubtedly, simple and pure black metal, hopefully this review has illuminated ways in which it is far from unoriginal. Regardless, whilst some might list the mesmerising hostility of Transylvanian Hunger, the majesty of Anthems to the Welkin at Dusk, or the mysterious beauty of Bergtatt as their black metal desert island disc, for me the simple, full-throttle pleasures of By the Blessing of Satan is right up there. A familiar formula utterly mastered.

Killing Songs :
Under the Eyes of the Lord, Sieluni Saatanan Vihasta Roihuten, Watchers of my Black Temple
Charles quoted 90 / 100
Goat quoted 86 / 100
Other albums by Behexen that we have reviewed:
Behexen - Rituale Satanum (reissue) reviewed by Goat and quoted 75 / 100
Behexen - Nightside Emanations reviewed by Tony and quoted 87 / 100
Behexen - My Soul for His Glory reviewed by Charles and quoted 75 / 100
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