Bethlehem – Bethlehem

Underground dark/black metal legends Bethlehem return with a rejuvenated lineup and an ambitious self titled album which celebrates and marks the 25th anniversary of the band. Besides the palpable traditional black metal roots, Bethlehem successfully channels multiple musical influences and an understated experimental force.
“Fickselbomber Panzerplauze” has a savage rhythmic approach at full speed that certainly channels familiar primordial black metal roots surrounded by an oppressive atmosphere while occasional melodic guitar passages that mitigate the mood.
“Kalt’ Ritt in leicht faltiger Leere” delivers some raw blackened guitar riffs that manage to build a solid groove. Besides the traditional anger driven growls, vocalist Onielar delivers desperate screams and cries over super melodic guitars and piano harmonies matching the particularly depressing mood.
“Kynokephale Freuden im Sumpfleben” slows down the rhythm as it relies on a grave atmosphere where a gloomy yet pleasantly melodic guitar work becomes extremely dominant. Bethlehem also adds a groovy dose of blackened rock guitar riffing that temporarily takes away the deeply desolate aura.
“Arg tot frohlockt kein Kind” might focus on a bleak emotional palette but the guitar leads and the mid paced, almost mellow, rhythm seem to erase the previous depressing patina and the extreme metal raw elements as lovely dense melodies bring a post rock catchy glow.
“Wahn schmiedet Sarg” returns to a more aggressive rhythm dominated by tormented growls and screams but there is still space to properly showcase the band’s melodic side with a series of rocking guitar riffing and some slower doom oriented sinister passages.
Bethlehem self titled new album might feel unsettling to the occasional listener due to its bleak visionary nature and its extreme metal themes, nevertheless it also holds an unexpectedly approachable melodic melancholic mood.

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