This Danish trio has been blasting out satanic grimness for 20 years, but it’s almost always been in the form of splits, demos and EPs. Death and the Beyond is only their second full-length and the first since 2006. While the band’s name, image and lyrics are certainly standard fare for Hell’s Headbangers, the music and production are not. And over the course of the album, you’ll learn that contradictions abound; leading the listener astray is something Denial of God excels at. Nothing is quite as it seems, cloaked in a shroud of mist and evil.
Full review after the jump!
The album is rich, textured, and at over an hour it’s an incredibly long release. It’s also odd to have a satanic black metal band focus so much on melody, but by infusing their long songs with memorable riffs that are sped up, slowed down and contorted in every way while still staying familiar they keep a common thread that makes the album sneak by like a ghoul in the night. A nice tinge of atmosphere helps the songs run their course without feeling too barren while the analog production from Berno Studio gives it a warm, thick sound.
I haven’t been able to find a full version of the lyrics, but from the surprisingly enunciated vocals it’s pretty clear this is a concept album about the journey of a man mistaken for dead and his final agonizing hours, dying locked in a coffin. It takes the listener on the maddening journey to the grave, but it’s not quite as solemn and depressing as expect as the band rarely falls into overly mournful moods. The album focuses heavily on repeating simplistic, albeit beautiful, tremolo melodies that use the harmonic minor scale to its fullest extent. This is primarily evident in “Black Dethe” and “Behind the Coffin Lid,” two upbeat songs with memorable guitar work you’ll be humming all the way to the blackened beyond.
Instead of starting with something simple and building it up over time like many long-form bands are wont to do, these Danes instead unleash their fury from the get-go and twist the sound over the course of the song like mad satanic scientists. The horrendously fun Frankenstein-ian creations conjure up visions of the green cartoon version of the monster rather than the forlorn Robert De Niro, but that’s a refreshing change for a genre that often takes itself much too seriously.
The 15-minute “Pendulum Swings” closes the album and showcases the band’s mastery. Slowly and deliberately building itself one instrument at a time, it eventually erupts into the band’s finest moments of melodic fury. And before you know it, you’re alone in the ground, smiling and reflecting on your journey that was grim, evil and fun as hell.
Physical copies of Death and the Beyond, including three different vinyl colors, are available at Hell’s Headbangers.