Former AMG writer, Natalie Zed, described Behexen in her Nightside Emanations review as a second-wave black metal band. Nothing more, nothing less. And, in all honesty, that is exactly what they are. But, Behexen—as well as Horna, Satanic Warmaster, and Sargeist—are not only innovators of the style, but are also damn good at it. With black metal musicians like Horns, Shatraug, and Hoath Torog steering Behexen (all members of one of more of the aforementioned Finnish outfits), the band continues to deliver powerful Satanic messages both captivating and crushing. Behexen may not bring much variation these days, but their consistency is commendable. Though The Poisonous Path is far from my favorite release, it’s another quality Behexen release and one that further proves their consistency.
Many fans (including myself) were a bit bummed with the territories explored on 2008’s My Soul for His Glory. But, for all its flaws, the slower pace and deeper vocal style resulted in a heavier, more methodical sound. With 2012’s Nightside Emanations the band took that mid-paced approach and rode it like a goat from hell. The album is crisp and loud with riffs heavy enough to crack concrete. Though I prefer older tracks like “Sota valon jumalaa vastaan” (Rituale Satanum) and “Watchers of My Black Temple (By the Blessing of Satan), the deliberate attacks, agonizing atmospheres, and restrained vocals of the newer material kept the band from falling into a rut.
The Poisonous Path kicks off with a track as stocked as a one-stop shop. Like the overture of a musical, “The Poisonous Path” teases the listening of things to come. It has monstrous riffs, church-bell chimes, and a conclusion wracked with hate and pain. “Umbra Luciferi,” “Tyrant of Luminous Darkness,” and “Pentagram of the Black Earth” also shop at the Behexen Market, and provide the album with thick atmospheres and memorable guitar work. The latter two have some of the heaviest Behexen-meets-Gorgoroth riffs on the album, but are somehow capable of restraining them when the melodic interludes come into play. “Pentagram of the Black Earth” rocks your possessed corpse with a Rituale Satanum-inspired riff before setting up a tremolo-led build that grows every time you listen to it. “Tyrant of Luminous Darkness” uses similar techniques, but its build doesn’t quite pack the emotional Watain-like punch of its counterpart. But “Umbra Luciferi” trumps them both with atmospheres so thick and consuming, you’ll be scrambling for your trusty scythe to cut through it.
Except for these few exceptions, the rest of the album is more or less focused on specific moods. “A Sword of Protean Fire” focuses on headbangable riffs and clever drum work, while “Chalice of the Abyssal Water” relies solely on its atmospheres. Unfortunately, these focused pieces don’t quite have the staying power of the rest of the album. “The Wand of Shadows” and “Gallows of Inversion” are decent black metal ditties, but they are rather standard. But, not all of these straight-laced tracks blend into the blackened ether. The epic “Rakkaudesta Saatanaan” goes far and above to prove the band is capable of capturing the desired mood. The song is simplistic and lengthy, but the emotions it conjures up leave me in a blackened haze.
The Poisonous Path isn’t as good as Ritauale Satanum and By the Blessing of Satan, but it is comparable to Nightside Emanations. The album is loud and lacks dynamics, but Hoath Torog’s vocals are ginormous and Horn’s blasts are surprisingly noticeable in the chaotic mix. In quality, I would place The Poisonous Path between the Sargeist‘s Feeding the Crawling Shadows and Gorgoroth‘s stellar Instinctus Bestialis. It’s a solid release and one worth spinning if you enjoyed Nightside Emanations.