BEHEMOTH — ...From the Pagan Vastlands (review)

BEHEMOTH — ...From the Pagan Vastlands album cover Demo · 1994 · Black Metal Buy this album from MMA partners
3/5 ·
siLLy puPPy
BEHEMOTH released their fourth demo …FROM THE PAGAN VASTLANDS early in 1994 on the Pagan Records label. It has been rereleased many times over the years most recently on the Witching Hour label. This release sees the band as a trio again with the addition of Frost on additional guitars. Session musicians provide keys and bass. As evidenced by the grim corpse painted face and dead trees on the cover with Gothic font, this is a grim old school black metal style release with atmospheric embellishments.

PAGAN VASTLANDS begins with a howling wind and strummed acoustic guitar that find a black metal buzz saw guitar frenzy slowly brewing up in the distance fading in. This overall sound is a style that would continue during their black metal years. This release is more atmospheric and perhaps bands like Emperor and Dimmu Borgir proved that the use of keys can create a deep dreadful dynamic that many bands like BEHEMOTH latched onto rather quickly.

The production on this one is a lot better than earlier demos but still not perfect. The keys are rather prominent on this one at times standing above the rest of the sound a bit too much when they appear. The use of acoustic guitars as a separate layer is quite unique for black metal bands of the day except for maybe Ulver’s first release. Nergal’s tortured growls have reached their full power here and the overall style of the band is complete at least for the black metal years before they incorporated death metal aspects into their sound.

The songwriting department has improved significantly as well. These tracks are actually pleasant to listen to although they don’t differentiate themselves from each other significantly. Baal’s drumming skills have also improved and there are more energetic percussive developments as opposed to the keep up with the rhythm and nothing else approach. The tracks seem to have more variety within the tracks themselves with different types of breakdowns and rhythmic structure changes but still an energetic and entertaining listen for true fans.

While a huge improvement in developing their sound and production techniques, …FROM THE PAGAN VASTLANDS unfortunately fails to distinguish itself significantly from the gazillions of other black metal artists flooding the market in the mid-90s. While these BEHEMOTH demos will never stand out amongst the competition who had a head start, this one is definitely a worthy listen for hardcore fans of the band. There’s a killer Mayhem cover “Death Crush” that finishes it off.
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