Bythos – The Womb of Zero Review

For years, I’ve stood behind “second-wave” black metal legends like Gorgoroth, Marduk, and Ofermod. The power and aggression that spills from their records boils and cools my blood at the same time. Yet, while these Scandinavians continue what they helped to create, their Finnish brethren have been at it for almost as long. Unfortunately, n00bs to the scene are enchanted—as we all have been—by the murders and mysteries of the Norwegian and Swedish camps. My favorites from that landmass, which shares borders with both Norway and Sweden, are the trio of Behexen, Horna, and Sargeist. Though their language is different, the message is the same. Bludgeoning, destructive, hateful, and vicious. But, what if a band came along, with members from all three of my favorite Finnish outfits? With the intention of slowing the pace, adding layers of melody, and capping it all off with the hooking guitar leads of Watain and Dissection? I wonder what that would sound like…

Well, it sounds like Bythos debut record, The Womb of Zero. But what’s funny about a band made up of a trio of musicians from Behexen and Horna is that I had no idea until I was already balls deep into the record. Why Terratur Possessions hasn’t promoted this more is beyond me. Or is it? Using initials instead of their monikers from their other bands,1 The Womb of Zero is so far outside the wheelhouse of the musicians’ other material. So far that if the pitch for the record read, “Check out the debut album of Bythos, a sinister creation from Behexen’s own Hoath Torog,” fans might expect something completely different. More diverse than I thought possible for the man, The Womb of Zero finds Torog expanding his vocals while the guitar work goes beyond the crushing blackness of Infection’s typical Horna shredding.

“Legacy of Naahmah” and “Call of the Burning Blood” draw heavily from Watain and Dissection. The former via punching vocals akin to those of Jon Nödtveidt, with his clever guitar leads to match. Even ending with a gorgeous display of clean guitars, much like the nearly seven-minute, guitar-focused closer, “Luciferian Dawn.” “Call of the Burning Blood” uses its title as a powerful, repetitive chorus, building through borderline symphonic atmospheres to a final melodic climax.

Mixing these melodic builds and stabbing vocals with prayer-like chants to the Horned One, “Hymn of Lucifer” and “Destroyer of Illusions” see Torog burrowing deeper into the rabbit hole. Neither track is a “ballad,” but if I said they were “black metal ballads,” you would understand what I meant. They are the most passionate pieces on the disc. “Hymn of Lucifer” is a gorgeous, blackened prayer with layered chanting and airy, clean-voiced sections that reverberate off cold cathedral walls. “Destroyer of Illusions” takes the closing moments of “Legacy of Naahmah” and adds oomph to them, utilizing passionate, prayer-like choruses to the mellow, Dissection-inspired guitar work.

The rest of the album is what you’d expect from the meloblack/melodeath sound of Nödtveidt and co. Not a bad thing, by any means, but still a predictable one. The surprise track of them all, though, is “When Gold Turns into Lead.” Mixing Dissection with the Viking-esque character of Unleashed, the surprise comes with the weaving of guitars and vocals. I would have never guessed that the Behexen/Horna collective could produce a song that sounded like a black metal Amon Amarth. But they did.

In the end, this was a fun journey into a musical nook I didn’t expect from these guys. The Womb of Zero is nothing new, musically. But it’s still a cool release that, I hope, will result in future releases. Especially if the band continues to put out albums with these kinds of dynamics. The album is so easy to listen to that it’s the main reason I can put it on repeat and let it be. Separately, these guys have never disappointed me and, together, they don’t either.

Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 8 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Terratur Possessions
Releases Worldwide: April 24th, 2020

Show 1 footnote

  1. Which, again, funny enough, appear to be the initials of the band member’s actual names.
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