Sunday, April 1, 2012
Bethlehem - S.U.I.Z.I.D. (review by Stephen Latimer)
As of late, a review while listening seems to be a flavorful way of progress. This 1998 Blacken Doom effort was a kraftwurk by the Germanic metallers, Bethlehem. And, to be quite Frank I would be dumb to even try to pronounce, let alone translate the actual title of this album, it’s just been shorthanded to s.u.i.z.i.d., or suicide in German. This will also mark my first review, as well as first listen, of a true Doom Metal effort outside of Epic Doom (Lacuna Coil, Nightwish, Beseech) or stoner/sludge doom (High on Fire, The Sword, Black Tusk). One slight confusing thing, there is the original album, and a redo with a newer vocalist in 2009, and sadly I’m unaware of which album I’m listening to.
The first thing I notice is the guttural howls of agony which actually remind me of Cathedral or Godflesh trying to belt out some Burzum. However, that’s totally only on the first track on this first go round. The second track kind of actually scared the shit out of me. As it is more of a death grunt the second track is almost a departure from the first track as it actually gets up into some galloping speeds, and actually sounds like some better Scandinavian black metal bands such as Darkthrone or early Emperor. Not to be fooled, as it did fool me at first, it totally rocks out in some slow paced doomy gooey goodness! Some harmonized guitars layered of a nice little bass solo, totally makes this unique in my eyes as a Black Metal enthusiast. But the utter shrill of terror exemplifies the harboring despair of self-tragedy. The loathsome existence would surely step someone over the edge; the sorrow that rings in my ear echo’s scoff mankind in its relevance. What the fuck am I listening to? Is this ecstasy through agony? It’s almost a sadistic pleasure to hear the pain in this melancholy rapture. And I love ever moment of this sickness!
The third track starts off in a swell groove of joy, punctuated with an abrupt sorrowful mid- high octave guitar lullaby. This feeds into the idea, that even those that are chronically depressed, they tend to mask it with smiles and laughter, making them even more dreadful inside. Gladly so, after a short pause in the beginning, it rocks into one of the most tear jerking riffs I’ve ever heard, in how truthful it sings out. This riff could be played by any high profiled virtuoso in any rock genre and have altering effects, but it belongs here, in this zeitgeist, a reminder that this sad shit can make crazy shit sound like brilliant shit! And it’s far from brilliant shit; it’s a masterpiece in the riff alone. It’s followed gracefully by an awesome slow chugging thrash riff, or what I’d call a thrash riff. It’s a grueling tune to endure at 2:30 in the morning, but I’m proud to take that kind of pressure, as this is some heavy shit, no pun intended.
A third of the following track is either a monolog or a Germanic spell casted upon the listener to give them strength to endure the sheer brutal awesomeness that is to follow for the rest of this track. If I were one to guess, these guys play some Symphony of the Night, or have much similar influences as the composure of that epic, as there are a lot of similarities in tones, notes, and compositions. Only a small segment beckons this thought, but it sticks with me well. The ending of the second third of this madness totally brings up some heathenistic folk tones as would any self-respecting black metaled would. Not to go farther and ruin something grand about this record, but I’ve realized the band does not want to be labeled black or doom, or even death. They’re strictly dark metal...regardless, I’ve always taken the term a well blend of most extreme metals. But a label doesn’t matter, or it shouldn’t. And with this album you really can’t. Even though it is rather depressive, it is face paced, and chugs in parts.
The intro to the fifth track starts off in a bass solo that sounds rather, well, country western, but goes right into the same dark style as the previous track have. Again, the female who performs the spoken-word portion of the previous track appears again, making me believe an influence from neighboring Switzerlander’s Celtic Frost may play a keen part. Without further ado, there is nothing else much mentionable about this track, almost comes off as filler for a thus far stellar album. With my anticipation answered the intro of “Nexus” starts off promising. I would imagine it would be the start of a B-side. A dark ambient solo drifts into a nocturnal ethereal, and triumphs into what sounds like the marching orders of hells army, preparing for an eminent strike. Only it’s not a familiar fire razed hell, but a dark, bleak, azure hued cavern of despaired. “Cry Havoc and Release the Hound of War” Following is a thunderous charge into a celestial domain with necro battlephants with obsidian tusks soaked in angelic blood. Sluggish is this charge, but the weight of these combatants charge unstoppable in their intent for desolation and destruction. Like a locomotive, it gains momentum until the end where it comes crashing down in epic galloping force until it crashes the golden gates of heaven and lets loose a tsunami of black molten abyss and floods its righteous hopefuls to their doom.
In this second to last track, this avenging army pummels the remaining occupants with shear hatred with nocturnal rage. An easy finish as this slows pace again. But soon declares its victory festivities of admiration. But this final track lays waste to the idea that all good things must come to an end, that without an enemy there’s no point to fight; if there’s no hope, no salvation; without darkness, no need for light! All that once was polarity shall eventually become singularity. And when it comes a time for no absolution, there is an only absence that leaks into the void. In my final thoughts, I’ve learned something new. If doom is dread and despair, and black is all lack of substance and truly negativity of existence, Bethlehem is the cracking dusk before the end of nothingness, and a leap from null presence. Shrilling hatred followed by bombastic devastation, this master craft of Darkness! This is truly something I have yet to ever experience. To doom to be black, but to black to be doom, yet does not compare to blackened doom….it truly at an essence to declare this dark metal. Hail brethren of Deutschland, stay true and strong to your wicked wizardry, and steadfast into the oblivion of man!