Drawing Down the Moon, the 1993 album by Beherit, is something of a cult classic.
It occupies that space between death metal and black metal, where the latter had yet to establish much of an identity outside of really loving Satanism-themed lyrics. I would put Samael and Acheron in the same category.
“What the Hell is a Beherit?” you are probably asking.
“Beherit” is the name of the devil in the mostly dead Middle Aramaic language known as Syriac. It emerged sometime in the 5th Century BC and was in common usage until sometime in the 14th Century.
Now you know stuff.
Beherit itself is a Finnish band formed in 1989 with the expressed purpose of making “the most primitive, savage, hell-obsessed black metal imaginable.”
Pretty much, what most other black metal band have strived to do before and since.
Now, I had heard of Beherit the first time around. I don’t think it was from reviews or interviews though. Instead, I think they were one of the many bands featured in those full page advertisements indie labels would buy in music mags and rags. Those full page ads were chock full of album covers, along with the name of the band and maybe a sentence-long description.
I don’t remember what it said about Beherit, but I do remember the album cover to Drawing Down the Moon, a photo from what looks to be the surface of the moon, and thinking “that’s minimalist.”
The lineup for Draw Down the Moon includes Nuclear Holocausto (aka Marko Laiho) on vocals, guitars and synths; Black Jesus (aka Arjo Wennström) on bass guitar; and Sodomatic Slaughter (aka Jari Pirinen) on drums. Holocausto also acted as producer for the album.
Drawing Down the Moon starts off with a recitation of the Seventh Satanic Statement from Laveyan Satanism: “Satan represents man as just another animal who, because of his ‘divine spiritual and intellectual development,’ has become the most vicious animal of all.”
Throughout the album, Holocausto will do this thing where it sounds like he’s whispering, maybe choking, directly in your ear. The production makes him sound like he’s right there. He also uses some vocal processing, but it’s usually hardly noticeable unless you know what you’re listening for.
Another thing about Beherit is that there are a lot of tempo changes. This is because, like some black metal has become known for, there’s somewhat of a symphonic influence, which kind of takes you over an ocean of sound instead of delivering you catchy songs.
On the flip side though, sometimes the instruments fade into the background, particularly the bass guitar.
From the intro, we kick into the buzzing guitars of “Saloman’s Gate.” The buzzing guitars are accompanied by Holocausto’s growling vocals, which occasionally sound like he’s holding the mic too close to his mouth. It leads to a pretty nice guitar melody, with sort of that echoey in the distance sound that has become a staple of the genre, before breaking down into a heavy and grinding rhythm.
If there’s one thing you notice right off about Drawing Down the Moon, it’s that it doesn’t exactly start off with the highest quality production values. Interestingly though, the sounds seems to improve as the album goes on, getting cleaner sounding around the faster-paced “Nocturnal Evil.”
Unfortunately, after the first two songs, the album becomes kind of monotonous. Nothing really stands out, aside from the entrance section of many songs. Once you get passed those, there’s not much that’s particularly memorable, with a few exceptions.
“Sadomatic Rites” is pretty slow compared to the songs that came before. It’s also the first overt use of a synthesizer, though it’s used more to add atmosphere instead of being a lead instrument.
“Nuclear Girl” is one of the most interesting parts of the album. This song foregoes black metal, going into a 70s space music-soundtrack sort of vibe. Kind of out of place, but cool.
“Summerlands” is also kind of a strange track, which is out of place on the album. It’s mainly just a slow drum and a synth, with Holocausto essentially talking most of the time, before whispering “summerlands.”
“Unholy Pagan Fire” is one of the few other stand outs. This song starts with sort of a doomy groove and goes into a pretty steady, but slow groove. Kind of like what you’d call a doom metal song, except with the snarls of black metal.
“Down There” is also pretty good, picking up the pace after the slow “Unholy Pagan Fire.” It’s steady fast snare just drives the song, beating the user before picking things up to an even faster pace. This song also goes back into the weird thing where Holocausto sounds like he’s almost swallowing the microphone.
“Werewolf, Semen and Blood” may not musically stand out, but it’s worth mentioning just for the title alone.
In a lot of ways, the production reminds me of Saint Vitus’ album Children of Doom as far as the instruments’ sound. Maybe not as dull as that album, which is a positive for Drawing Down the Moon.
So, would I recommend this album?
Well, if you’re a black metal completist, then I would. Drawing Down the Moon is an important part of the history in that genre, particularly in its Scandinavian branch which had a Finnish-Norwegian rivalry of sorts.
For others who aren’t fans of black metal as a whole, I would say give it a listen. There are some interesting sounds on here that might appeal to those who aren’t diehard genre fans. Whether to spend money on it or not, it’s up to you. I’m pretty content with just listening to it on YouTube, since there’s not really anything on it that makes me feel like coming back for another listen after I finish this review.