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Just as Venom's boozy, thrashy 1982 album 'Black Metal' influenced many a psychotic Norwegian teenager and helped kickstart the cold, ferocious, stripped-down extreme metal subgenre of the same name, German band Bethlehem's 1994 debut full-length draws together disparate elements of black metal and doom to create the quintessential 'dark metal' album.
The inside of the album sleeve displays the nazi eagle with a 'B' for Bethlehem replacing the swastika, and the legend 'F*cking Kill Yourself' written in bold gothic script underneath, indicating the 'Dark Metal' is going to be a less than cheery listen. The majority of the album is given over to utterly miserable and lethargic fuzzy doom riffs, accompanied by starkly prominent, lamenting and drawn out melodies, freezing tremolo riffs, subtle, funereal synths and cavernous, funeral-doom style drums, and is reminiscent in places of 1998 album S.U.I.Z.I.D in its application of incredibly bleak melodic guitarlines.
Though the album is for the most part incredibly lethargic, there are also the odd sporadic bursts of energy, with the songs lurching into chaotic up-tempo black metal and bouncy, chuggy, mid-to fast tempo doom passages. The vocals are of the low, growled variety, also incorporating rasping, mid-pitched screams, and whilst infinitely more subdued than on the two albums that were to follow, they are nevertheless both powerful and fitting.
Its a pretty varied album, with excellent song progression and offering up embryonic elements of both predecessors 'Te Dictius Necare' and 'S.U.I.Z.ID', whilst Red Stream reissue bonus-track 'Wintermute' is highly reminiscent in places of very early My Dying Bride, with its mix of raw black/death metal passages, guttural growls and wholly despondent melodic doom riffs. Relentlessly depressing and superbly executed, 'Dark Metal' is a much-overlooked underground classic.
1. The Eleventh Commandment 05:11
2. Apocalyptic Dance 11:01
3. Second Coming 06:03
4. Vargtimmen 03:46
5. 3rd Nocturnal Prayer 09:00
6. Funereal Owlblood 06:53
7. Veiled Irreligion 05:27
8. Gepriesen Sei Der Untergang 05:30
Red Stream Reissue Bonus Tracks-
9. Supplementary Exegesis 8:25
10. Wintermute 8:12
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 11th Commandment
2 Apocalyptic Dance
3 Second Coming
5 3rd Nocturnal Prayer
6 Funereal Owlblood
7 Veiled Irreligion
8 Gepriesen Sei der Untergang
9 Wintermute [*]
10 Boneyard of Disillusion [Live][*]
11 Veiled Irreligion [Live][*]