(Spinefarm Records) Enslain Magazine Issue 10 "Because I just fucking hate this world." - These coldly spoken words mark the return of Beherit, arguably the first and most important black metal band to emerge from Finland. A simple riff is joined by the slow-paced rhythm section, and soon followed by a serenely funereal synth wandering above. The song calmly leads the listener deeper into darkness, before finally thundering into a possessed frenzy, while Nuclear Holocausto Vengeance's distant screeching joins the fray, only to grind down to a near halt and revert to the cruel harshness of the opening riff. Beherit is back, and not with the electronic ritual ambient of their later albums, but with the primitive black metal they are best known for.
After this introductory track, the listener is first met with Beherit's more straightforward side. Fast, hypnotic beats are topped with simple punishing riffs and Holocausto's vocal terror, now more audible and a little gurglier in its style, and while the most notable quality of the music is its simple primitivity, there are a lot of rewarding details to be found, like subtle synth sounds and effects that contribute to the whole. On the fourth track "Pagan Moon", Beherit show a darker shade of their black metal. Starting with acoustic guitar, campfire sounds and shamanistic droning, they soon move into a slow-paced march, with vocals varying from the basic raspy style to low clean chants, making it all sound like an ancient ritual. After keeping the listener in its grasp for five minutes, the monotonous marching fades out into an ambient-like soundscape of chiming bells and humming winds, making way for the next song.
"Pimeyden Henki" isn't only special for being the first Beherit song with Finnish lyrics, but also in its whole structure. Slow parts with clean voices fervently chanting demonic mantras are followed by faster pounding, while Holocausto spits out his malevolent spells in a spine-chilling manner, until the song ends abruptly. After another faster piece, Engram reveals its blackest magic in the form of the 15-minute closing track "Demon Advance", which is an absolute killer. The slowly crawling tempo, mesmerizing repetitive riffs, experimental synth effects, and a compelling vocal performance make for a song that ends the album with the nobility it deserves, and stands in my books among classic Beherit pieces like "The Gate of Nanna".
Despite the primitive musical approach on Engram, the production is strong and clear, without being too polished or weakening the raw energy of the material. The bass is pleasingly audible in the mix, while vocals justifyingly dominate the overall sound. Although not as uniquely obscure and versatile as on their genre-defining classic Drawing Down the Moon, the vocals still contain quite a lot of variation, ranging from clean to harsh and low to high. While the minimalistic booklet disappointingly doesn't include any lyrics, the articulation is understandable enough to hear a good amount of what's being sung. And though the lyrics might sound like childish satanic clichés to the average metal listener, I feel they match the music perfectly in their primal and ritualistic nature, and show that the band is not joking around with their themes.
Regardless of what you think about the band, Beherit's importance in black metal and their influence on countless bands is undeniable. Engram is an essential listen for any black metal enthusiast, and stands among their classic works without shame.