Finnish heathens Behexen return with evil, dark slab on ‘Nightside Emanations’

Everyone knows metal has a penchant for the dark side. That could be the understatement of all time. Yet that aspect gets played out far too much, where people not in the know about the genre assume everyone is out for blood and worshipping Satan himself. That kind of takes some of the oomph away from the bands that actually are playing their trade for the fellow “downstairs.”

Finnish black metal band Behexen really don’t pull any punches when it comes to their allegiances. Three of their four studio albums specifically refer to Satan in their titles, though one could be interpreted in another way. If you’re completely naive, that is. Their former name is Lords of the Left Hand Path. There’s your evidence. No need for an opinion from the jury. We judge thee Satanic. If you have a hard time handling that kind of thing, you probably won’t be too excited about Behexen. And that’s too bad, because their fourth album “Nightside Emanations” is a really great album that mixes throwback black metal rawness and uncompromising attitude, with modern twists and turns that are more imaginative than what the first and second wave conjured.

Behexen have been an unholy unit for a decade and a half now, releasing their first full-length “Rituale Satanum” in 2000 on Sinister Figure. Already their blasphemous campaign seemed pretty focused, if a little rough around the edges, and they continued on with their mission on 2004’s “By the Blessing of Satan” and 2008’s “My Soul for His Glory,” the latter out on Hammer of Hate. Their new one was picked up by Debemur Morti Productions, clearly the largest label with which they’ve been associated, and the music they delivered certainly is worthy of the greater exposure they should realize.

Vocalist Hoath Torog and drummer Horn have been around since the beginning of the band, and on this record they’re joined by new guitar trio Wraath (of Dark Sonority, Mare and formerly of Celestial Bloodshed) and Shautraug (of Black Stench, Morbid Savouring, Necroslut, and 89,000 other bands). The newly cemented unit sounds pretty tight, and their dizzying, sickening smear over black metal template sounds like something you might expect from Marduk or Funeral Mist. Fun, gooey, violent stuff that’ll keep you up at night. Also, not only do they have Lucifer in mind, but many other ancient deities and demons that have wreaked havoc throughout the ages.

Following a synth-filled intro that sounds like an old horror film score, it’s right into “Wrathful Dragon Hau Hra,” a gurgling, dizzying assault that isn’t short on speed. At one point, Torog howls, “From the eye of chaos, rise now,” as the darkness and torture set in. “Death’s Black Light” is fiery and has a strong old-school vibe, and the simplistic chorus, where the title is shouted repeatedly, would be rousing live. “Circle Me” delves into the bizarre, as the band takes on a mode of worship. Torog calls upon Samael, Lilith, Azazel, and the King to come forth, and the mid-tempo boiler acts as black homage to the dark figures. Be prepared to be freaked out. “We Burn With Serpent Fire” has an ominous opening, calls unto Lucifer, and blends old and new styles of black metal nicely.

That leads us into “Luciferian,” a crunchy, thrashy, and authoritative song that eventually comes off as adoration. It leads into “Awaken Tiamat,” a call unto the primordial goddess that has a propulsive open, doom bells, calculated riffing, and another simple, call-back-the-song-title approach to the chorus that makes it sticky and easy to remember. “Temple of Silent Curses” brings back the damaged compositions, lurching vocals, and a strong splash of lead guitar work, making it one of the most interesting tracks on the album. “Shining Death” is punchy and ugly, while seven-minute closer “Kiss of My Dark Mother” is psychedelic in spots, mystical in others, has slurry, monstrous vocals, and even bathes in sinister melodies. It again prods Lilith and begs her audience, and by the end, it appears as if a vision of the end of humankind and a start of eternal suffering is at hand.

Yeah, you won’t feel uplifted by this stuff, and you’d best believe you’re in for an earnest sounding genuflection to Satan and damnation. If that’s not really your thing, and it really isn’t mine, there’s always the music, that is crushing, stimulating, and a fine amalgamation of historical and modern black metal. Behexen have impressive chops, and if there really are dark lords to be served, they’ll be pretty damn happy with “Nightside Emanations.”

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