I’ve heard more than one person waiting with a certain confidence this new Bethlehem album, in the light of a history that places the German band among those fundamental for the growth and development of a certain way of interpreting the extreme matter. Similarly, for my part, there were several doubts related to the previous Hexakosioihexekontahexaphobia, an album that had not left me with indelible memories, and this new self-titled effort dispels some but makes others grow. Surely the creature that, for many years now, is led by Bartsch alone, does not produce music that can leave indifferent and, despite the black matrix is always in sight, the end result can never be taken for granted. On the other hand, however, while not wanting to take away from Bethlehem the title of seminal band and essential to what would become the German black metal scene, the fact remains that their production is certainly of good quality, considering that the leader has surrounded himself with musicians of depth (among all the remarkable drummer Stefan Wolz) but without reaching peaks corresponding to the status acquired. Even this new work, therefore, does not move my judgment even if, compared to its predecessor, turns out to be slightly more direct and better focused on a black doom character that offers more than one compelling passage and well memorized. Another aspect that could serve as a watershed for more than one listener is the interpretation provided by the Polish vocalist Onielar, marked by a hysterical register, at times very theatrical, however, more suitable for a record of a totally depressive nature rather than a similar context, and that in my opinion, as well as cloying in the long run, turns out to be much lower and less versatile than the test provided by Guido Meyer on Hexakosioihexekontahexaphobia. Ultimately, Bethlehem‘s album shows several flashes of genius, but the passages that you remember more willingly are those instrumental afferent to the doom matrix and not those that, instead of surprising, end up only to compromise the fluidity of certain tracks. So it is the direct opener Fickselbomber Panzerplauze to convince, as well as more thoughtful and melodically linear tracks such as Kynokephale Freuden Im Sumpfleben and Arg Tot Frohlockt Kein Kind, in which space is found in a more concrete way the qualitative guitar work of Karzov, while among the most anomalous tracks stands Verderbnisheilung In Sterbend ‘Mahr, oscillating between leaden and threatening riffs and liquid dark wave pulses. Bartsch confirms himself as a composer of merit and certainly one of the best musical minds around, but there are too many choices that I personally think are not entirely functional to the final result, including the burp that welcomes the listener at the beginning of the work and that only makes you want to return it to sender. That said, the eighth long-distance effort of Bethlehem is definitely something that should not be overlooked, even for the attempt, often successful, to probe the darkness in music in all its meanderings, especially the most inaccessible and repugnant: the fact remains that, for my personal taste, there is always missing the canonical cent to make the euro.

2016 – Prophecy Productions

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