Here at the Sleeping Village, we keep our most revered albums in....a very special place. Their time may have gone, but they are certainly not forgotten. Today's pick: another one of The Voiceless Apparition's all-time favorites. The man, as you may have noticed, is on a goddamn roll with these retrospectives!
Written by: The Voiceless Apparition
Germany is quite known for their metal scene, whether it's the thrash of Sodom, the metalcore of Heaven Shall Burn, the death metal brutality of Morgoth...but then there's Bethlehem. Bethlehem is quite an enigma in the German metal scene. They're pioneers (hell, they basically created dark metal) but also remain underlooked and underappreciated. So for my next review I decided to take on their legendary and underrated debut album known as Dark Metal, released in August of 1994 (exact date unknown) on Adipocere Records. Let's dive in to one of metal's more obscure albums.
"The Eleventh Commandment" begins the album on a catchy and eerily groovy note. The opening riff is superb: filled with melody, dread, and atmosphere. While this song is a great way to begin the album, it DOES NOT represent the album as whole, in my opinion. To drive that point home, track two, "Apocalyptic Dance," is where the album really kicks off. This song is the definition of dynamic. Melding in between spaced out sections and crushing doom, this song is a journey. My favorite part of the song is the last few minutes, because the song fades out, only to re-emerge into a down-trodden and depressive section with piano and a really memorable bass-line to keep you engaged, courtesy of founder Jurgen Bartsch.
Moving on, "Second Coming" is a monster of a song, The opening riff is a fucking mammoth. Praise needs to be heaped upon guitarist Klaus Matton, as this riff is crushing: it's utterly heavy, but almost weeping at the same time. This is definitely one of my favorite songs on the album. It's on another level of obscurity and soul-crushing, this makes any black metal band sound like fucking Maiden. "Vargtimmen" returns to the more spaced out and atmospheric tendencies of the second track, switching between the mournful melodies of Klaus Matton to subdued and uncomfortable peacefulness.
"3rd Nocturnal Prayer" is an absolute masterpiece, this is easily my favorite song on the album. Words cannot describe how crushingly and devastatingly heavy this song is; the opening riff was crafted with such mastery and care and should be viewed as such. Also, this is another quite dynamic song, it's mournfully slow, groovy, and sinister all at once. I'll just leave it at that because I don't want to ruin the song for anyone. Just go check it out!
"Funereal Owlblood" is another masterful song. The riff begins similar with the atmosphere of the previous song, but with more melancholy melodies than you could handle. If there's one way to describe this song, really all of the songs on this album is depressive, abysmal, and melancholy. I would also like to point out the lyrics to this song. The first verse is superbly poetic and it reads as follows: "the night grows pale/as with faint wing stroke/the cradle of decay/emerges from the ruins of reason." Beautifully dark and swimming in bereavement, this is what you can expect of the lyrics, once you listen to the album.
"Veiled Irreligion" is business as usual; while certainly not my favorite song on the album, it stands as a really strong blend of the styles Bethlehem is known for. It's another crushing and dynamic song. "Gepriesen sei der Untergang" ends the album on a malevolent, The opening seconds of the song paint a sinister picture before your slapped in the face with a beautifully crafted doom riff that is sure to rip anyone's face off. The spoken word section of vocalist Andreas Classen" is haunting. He really has a dread-inducing voice. Overall, what a way to end the album.
Dark Metal should be held in high regards with some of its country's pivotal releases, but alas, it is not, and for what reason I do not know. Perhaps Bethlehem are too dark for even most metalheads, or perhaps they are too strange. I don't know, but in any case this album stands as a pioneering and pivotal release for me. It's dark, melancholic, evil, obscure, and DEPRESSIVE. The main reason why I wanted to do this retrospective series was to shine a light on some bands that have been crucial to my listening habits and helped shape the way I am. Bethlehem is a crucial band for me, and I wish they were talked about more as I believe that they are a highly unique, original, daring, and adventurous (later albums attest to that) band. I hope that in these times of struggle that we are in that maybe discovering a new band or album will help ease the frustration of these time's. But for this album, I can't recommend it enough. Essential and crucial listening.
Bethlehem - Dark Metal was released Aug. 1994 from Adipocere Records
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