BEHEMOTH — Sventevith (Storming Near the Baltic) (review)

BEHEMOTH — Sventevith (Storming Near the Baltic) album cover Album · 1995 · Black Metal Buy this album from MMA partners
4/5 ·
siLLy puPPy
After a series of several demos establishing themselves as one of Poland’s leading second wave black metal bands, BEHEMOTH released their debut album on Pagan Records in 1995. After several members coming and going during the demo years, SVENTEVITH (STORMING NEAR THE BALTIC) is basically the duo teamwork of Adam Darski AKA Negal (Black Emperor of Behemoth) on guitar, bass, vocals and Adam “Baal Ravenlock” Muaraszko AKA Lord of Iron Thorns on drums. The session musicians Cezar sat in on keyboards to provide the proper atmospheric touches. The album title SVENTEVITH is a variation of Svetovid, Svantovit or Sventovit which is a Slavic deity of war, fertility and abundance venerated on the island of Rügen in the 12th century and considered a variant of the pan-Slavic god Perun.

After existing as a trio for the debut EP “And The Forests Dream Eternally,” Nergal and Baal would shortly return with their full-length debut in April 1995 and deliver a Pagan oriented exploration through the atmospheric section of the black metal world. While clearly following the cue of the legions of Norwegian acts that had preceded them, BEHEMOTH was somewhat unique in that they incorporated various other sounds to the mix. For one there is a clear presence of classical guitar when acoustic sections are allowed to shine (most notably on the all acoustic “The Touch Of Nye” but find its presence emerge in unexpected places. There is in fact a lot more classical touches hiding beneath the thundering buzzsaw guitars and pummeling percussive blastbeats. Another interesting characteristic of SVENTEVITH are the clearly defined bass lines that don’t get buried under the muddy walls of distortion much like other black metal releases of the era. The bass often provides a melodic counterpoint.

The best quality of SVENTEVITH (STORMING NEAR THE BALTIC) is the diversity of the tracks. Some such as the opener “Chant Of The Eastern Lands” are clearly designed to tear the roof off the house while some like “Hidden In A Fog” provide a more polished atmospheric effect with choral vocals and jazzier drum rolls with a classically infused keyboard roll in the background. “The Touch Of Nya,” the atmospheric “Ancient” and the true closer “Hell Dwells In Ice” are non-metal cooling off periods that allow acoustic guitars and pianos provide frigid chill outs. While at first i thought it was strange that “Hell Dwells” sounded like the closing track and then followed by the black metal bombast of “Transylvanian Forest,” it all makes sense when you realize that the latter is basically a tack on track off an earlier EP. The track “Entering The Faustian Soul” combines both the acoustic driven background along with buzzsaw guitars and Nergal’s frantic vocal delivery. Melodic guitar solos are also present making this one a very easy to digest black metal listening adventure.

While BEHEMOTH would ultimately garner international attention for their unique mix of black and death metal beginning with 1999’s “Satanica,” their earliest albums found Nergal to have a knack for purer styles of the black metal sound. This is a balls to the wall black metal album with all the expected second wave elements including the incessant guitar attacks, percussive overdrive and Nergal’s raspy shrieked vocals, but what sticks out the most for me is the mature songwriting techniques that offer catchy hooks that are frostily covered by an atmospheric keyboard presence that adds a touch of ambient charm. The compositions seem to be written for classical guitar and then adapted to a more hellish black metal guitar setting. This is one that grew on me and a perfect example of an album not blowing me away by listening on the internet but sounded much better once i obtained the actual album on a remastered CD format. It has grown on me exponentially beyond my initial exposure and a stellar debut.
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