Invidious – In Death

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Invidious are a Swedish death/black
metal band from Uppsala, Sweden, a city also home to Watain and In
Solitude. What first drew me to this band was the discovery that Pelle
Åhman, vocalist in heavy metal band In Solitude
(a personal favourite), was also the vocalist in a death metal band.
Having heard his fantastic clean vocals and spurred on by the few hints
of harsh vocals in In Solitude’s first two albums, I was curious to see
what Pelle had been getting up to in this side-project of his. Their
only release is this, their 2011 EP, ‘In Death.’

The first thing to make quite clear is that this is not In
Solitude. This is old-school Swedish death metal at its best. Chaotic,
heavy, low-fi and fuzzy, noisy, and heavy as hell. Each of the four
tracks on this EP are tight and focused assaults on the senses. Åhman’s
vocals are superb, at times sounding like Erik Danielsson of Watain but
with a more consistently extreme sound. One the one hand this means
less variety, but given the short length of the EP this isn’t a major
issue. The overall ‘sound’ of the band isn’t easily pinned down: on the
one hand comparisons could be made to Entombed, Degial, or Entrails. But comparisons could equally be made with early Watain, Valkyrja, or Dissection.

Opening track ‘Black Blood’
is a pretty strong start to the album. Blastbeats, nicely mixed bass, and some
frenzied, chaotic riff-work, with the harsh vocal acting as the icing on
the cake. This sort of description could easily be applied to the
following three tracks though; Dead Salvation Spawn, Throne of Death,
and Visions. But not all songs are created equal – some here are
evidently stronger than others. The chorus sections on the first two
tracks just don’t do it for me. The feeling of relentless chaos is lost
as they slow down for these choruses, often allowing single notes to
reverberate for seconds at a time and the drumming to slow down as Åhman delivers
what’s really quite a simple and bland chorus. The exact same can be
said for Dead Salvation Spawn: good until the chorus kicks in and then
just about bearable until they get back into their stride in the verse
sections again.

The last two tracks on this EP are the strongest by some margin. In
‘Throne of Death’ the chorus is a big improvement, no longer forsaking
the energy of the rest of the song and finding itself much more at home
within the context of the rest of the song. That said it still suffers
from the problem of getting a little lazy with the guitarwork behind the
vocals, content to just let a few notes hang behind the vocals.
‘Visions’ is my personal favourite from the four tracks on this EP, with
some compelling bass-work, all four members deftly transitioning
between the different parts of this song.

Ultimately, this is a good EP held back by a lack of time and experience
in refining their ability to write compelling tracks. It is for this
reason that while I will continue to enjoy this EP, I hope
that Åhman comes back from In Solitude’s compelling new album ‘Sister’
with a renewed sense of focus and a strengthened songwriting ability, to
put these into action in Invidious. There’s a lot to like about this
EP: the song is chaotic, heavy, and conveys a sense of honesty about
their vision for this band. I still recommend you give this a listen if
you’re into old-school Swedish death metal and keep an eye out for them
in the future, because there’s lots of potential here.

Behemoth – The Satanist

If you’re at all familiar with the death metal scene then Behemoth really need no introduction. For the uninitiated, however, Behemoth are a Polish blackened death metal band that formed back in 1991. Their progression from their early pure black metal sound to their more recent sound which is primarily death metal with some black metal flourishings is an important one. As the band grew they developed their death metal influences further, with Demigod arguably being their most accomplished work up to this point. Their their previous album (2009’s Evangelion) was a very cold-sounding album, devoid of humanity or frailty, which I think is exactly the sort of merciless sound they were going for. The Satanist, however, presents an interesting change in direction for Behemoth. Not only have they brought back their black metal influence in a big way, this is in many ways the rawest, most emotional, and most human album Behemoth have ever produced.

In terms of the songs on the record, this is easily the most diverse, powerful array of tracks that Behemoth have ever recorded. Tracks like Furor Divinus, Ora Pro Nobis Lucifer, and Amen are blisteringly fast and heavy, with Ora Pro… being surprisingly catchy, and bringing to my mind their earlier album The Apostasy. Amen is one of the heaviest tracks they’ve ever written, period. The guitarwork from Nergal and drumming from Inferno is absolutely insane on this track. Messe Noire is more in the style of Deathspell Omega, with eerie, twisted guitar riffs and drumwork, and a truly fantastic guitar solo to close the track. The importance of his vocals in the sound of The Satanist cannot be overstated, because they’re such a huge part of what makes their sound work. At times a ferocious bellow, at others one can hear his vocals crack and break as the intensity and emotion of the song overcome him.

In my opinion, however, the final four tracks are the strongest on the album. ‘The Satanist’ is really Behemoth trying something outside of their comfort zone. There is a big emphasis on Orion’s basswork (which is absolutely phenomenal through every track on this album, by the way) and on melody at a slower pace. It has a very ‘rock n roll’ feel to it in place, and I found myself enamoured with it. Ben Sahar has a middle-eastern feel to it, and feels in places like a war-chant, in part driven by the unbelievable drumming, and by the end of the track the track explodes into an anthemic masterpiece of death metal. In the Absence ov Light has one of the biggest riffs on the entire album, bordering black, death, and thrash metal, with powerfuldrumwork pushing the song forwards at a relentless pace, until about a minute in the song lapses into a quiet interlude. A saxophone plays softly in the background while Nergal reads a quote by Witold Gombrowiczabout Satanism as an ideology. Out of nowhere, the incredible riff fromthe opening of the track explodes back into the track and the track picks up right where it left off.

However, it is the final track, O Father O Satan O Sun, that is the pinnacle of this album. After a minute of atmospheric, noisy ambiance and droning guitars, we’re fed an unbelievably delicious bassline by Orion before launching into the epic verse. As Nergal bellows the truly anthemic lyrics to this track, the addition of many backing vocals adds a truly epic feel to the song. About 2 minutes in we’re treated to a very bluesy, rock n roll guitar solo from Nergal that gives me goosebumps every time I hear it. The sense of atmosphere, of purpose, and of unbridled emotion and musicianship present in this track really epitomise everything that Behemoth stand for with this release. I think you can expect to see this album on plenty of 2014 end-of-year-lists.