|Depressive Black Metal
August 2nd, 2011
Release length: 26:31
So, before Drawing Down the Moon in 1993, Beherit recorded an album in 1990. However, due to label issues, it was never released until the master copy was found by one of the band members twenty one years later when poor audio quality and lo-fi production is a staple for the Black Metal genre. Immediately with this release it’s obvious why it was never released. The band recorded all the tracks live in the studio, and it really shows. The audio is horrible and clearly a recording done for a very cheap cost. The guitars sound pretty loud in the mix and, with a bass that is loud enough to be heard but not really make a strong impact, this dominates the entire release and really makes for the best part of it. The guitars sound as sharp as they could be for such a lower quality recording, which is actually rather surprising to be honest, and the bass can really add a crushing atmosphere when it manages to shine through. The drums are good too, but that’s after the first track. “Rehearsal” doesn’t seem to have any vocals to it, though I could be wrong due to the quality, and the drums are so far back in the mix you cannot hear them at all, and it sounds literally like a rehearsal that wasn’t really meant to be recorded. However, on “Grave Desecration Vengeance”, the quality does pick up, the guitars sound like mentioned just sharper, the bass is more prominant, and the drum kit is heard perfectly though the bass kicks do still sound very low in the mix and at times completely inaudible. The vocals, however, are terrible. It sounds like the microphone is being cupped, and as if no words are being uttered, but random guttural noises that are terribly over modulated and sound cheap and amateurish against the furious music and semi-decent to good production quality of the recording.
As stated, “Rehearsal” is horrible. You can barely make anything out except for the guitar thanks to the very distant recording quality, and it’s a surprise the guitars sound as strong as they are. “Grave Desecration Vengeance” really gets the album going, and it shows off the violent, sinister sound of Beherit nicely with the lower quality recording. The song itself is actually pretty impressive through the angry, poisonous music being played, and for the most part you can still make out the bass kicks enough that it does make an impact to the music. The vocals don’t really work for the track, but the following song “At the Devil’s Churns” finds the vocals to feel a little better, being all around stronger and not as overmodulated. But what comes next is a little questionable, and is clearly what is going on for “Rehearsal” as well.
“Nocturnal Evil” features a different vocal style, and it’s a little hard to accept at first. Half the time you can’t really tell if the bass that sounds way too loud at times is what’s making the noise, or the vocalist doing growls that are again too overmodulated and like the microphone is being cupped. You can’t make out anything that is being said, and instead if just sounds like random snorting in a Goregrind guttural fasgion. The track itself also seems to have a bit of a Goregrind feel to it coupled with random Black Metal sections. The only thing that can be said for these is that they do come off a bit beastly and inhuman, and if that’s what they were going for it works, but it just doesn’t work with the music being played, and with how loud they wind up being, causing a bit too much white noise to make them sound at all threatening. It’s with this song that things start to change up on At the Devil’s Studio 1990, and the wide range of Black Metal ideas are shown off, granted without much of a transition.
“Whores of Belial” hammers away in a far more aggressive, yet traditional Black Metal sound. Of course the song sounds like an instrumental but without a lyric sheet it’s hard to tell with the quality of the album sometimes, especially after the song “Nocturnal Evil” and how similar they can sound to a ready heavy and loud bass input. The song eventually slows down as it reaches it’s end to a more melancholic apprpoach, but it happens quite abruptly at the half way point. “Whores of Belial” eventually fades after a bit of a drawn out slower segment of the song, eventually picking back up, only to end and enter “Witchcraft”, a song with a more early Darkthrone-like sound to it. The music feels a bit mystical and foggy, and the vocals are given more of a whispering performance that could sometimes sound like it’s howling, which introduces yet another take on the Black Metal approach on this recording. It’s not a bad song, and it adds variety to the release, but it’s just nothing all that great compared to the earlier tracks of the recording, especially for the time the album would have initially been released. The track also just seems to end rather abruptly and never seems to go anywhere, just hammering along from start to finish until it just seems to end.
Aside the production and the aforementioned sudden finish to “Witchcraft”, the album does have other faults. “Grave Desecration Vengeance” for instance has this weird cassette rewinding sound to it that sounds too clear and modern to have come from the original recorded material on the master tapes. There’s also “The Oath of Black Blood”, which is a phenomenal song that brings the album back to the more aggressive and violent sound that started At the Devil’s Studio 1990 off nicely. However, this track seems to have a problem that could be from general wear on the original source tapes, but also could just be an issue from recording the music, or even a modern glitch. A little more then half way through the song, the music suddenly stops coming out of one speaker for no reason, then abruptly comes back through both speakers after a few seconds. “Six Days with Sadistic Slayer” is another song well worth checking out, but the song seems to find the bass unable to keep up with the guitars, and the guitar seems to be slightly off with the drums, which leads to a rather disapointing climax to such a brutal song, and finally the album ends with “Demonomacy” which, again, is another great aggressive track from the band and ends the album nicely, but it starts off with insanely loud vocals that seem to immediately be podded down. Why they couldn’t just stop for a second and redo the song considering it was not more then a few seconds in to correct this issue is something that is unclear, but just an issue that is really annoying.
At the Devil’s Studio 1990 may be twenty one years late, but given today’s state of Black Metal and the heavy focus on raw audio and production qualities, this release will fit in far better then it ever would have those twenty one years ago. The music, when audible, sounds tight, angry, and often razor sharp. The band shows some experimentation throughout the album which isn’t bad, but it does lead to some new vocal tactics that seem to be a bit too much at times thanks to the overmodulated vocals and louder then necessary bass riffs that creep up from time to time without reason. If you’re a fan of Beherit, you’re going to love this album, hands down, or even if you’re just a fan of Black Metal. However, “Rehearsal” is worth not taking into account, and going in knowing it’s a live in studio recording will make some of the rougher audio qualities far more understandable, especially considering the time of it’s recording as highlighted in the title. There are some problems with the band and the recording methods that do hurt the album, and even some issues that appear to be from the modern touches to pressing this album to the medium the label chooses to have it finally released, as well as perhaps general wear and tear on the master tapes with taking into consideration, and prove to be more weird and mildly annoying moments then anything. Either way, At the Devil’s Studio 1990 is a great piece of Black Metal history that has just been unearthed, and when you take all things into consideration and can experience the album for what it is, you can’t help but sit back and appreciate the anger-fueled Black Metal the band presents on their actual debut recording.
01. Rehearsal – 1:53
02. Grave Desecration Vengeance – 3:44
03. At the Devil’s Churns – 2:48
04. Nocturnal Evil – 3:07
05. Whores of Belial – 3:55
06. Witchcraft – 2:57
07. The Oath of Black Blood – 2:51
08. Six Days with Sadistic Slayer – 2:48
09. Demonomancy – 2:28
|Overall Score: 8.5/10
Digital review copy of this release provided by Hell’s Headbangers.