Justify Your Shitty Taste: Beherit’s “H418ov21.C” and “Electric Doom Synthesis”

Most of my “Justify” pieces come from my experience of being at least a decade or two older than most of you. The general response is a lot of confused or angry voices telling me no one thought these records were shitty (except for Metallica, that was so clear Ray Charles could see it and he died like five years ago). I guess a lot of it does depend on whether or not you were around when something was released or not. Look at George W. Bush — people fucking love him in retrospect now, though mostly for his paintings that look like the ghost of a sentient 1920’s cartoon did them.

Records often appreciate in value the further away from their original release date, maybe because of the influx of a newer generation who come into it with less preconception than we did, maybe because people’s minds are more open, or maybe because people are fucking liars and want to look cool. I don’t know; I can’t figure out Cold Lake having some kind of second life as a cult artifact, but I never owned big white Reeboks so fuck me, I guess.

Twenty some years ago, we could have done a Justify on pretty much any Beherit record. As a band, Beherit never really came into fashion with anyone who wasn’t die hard into the underground until the late ’90s/early ’00s, which gives a compelling counterpoint to anyone who thinks it’s just the younger generation coming up now who’re minimally exceptional. But even for the devotees of Beherit, at the time it was difficult to find people who felt the post-Drawing Down the Moon records warranted a place next to the chaotic black metal that came before them. Remember, this was at a time where deviation and experimentation were strictly forbidden in black metal, and for one of the most brutal of the underground to shift paradigms to electronic music seemed to stoke that fire excessively.

The first of the two electronic Beherit records, H418ov21.C (or “House 418 of the 21st Century”), actually fits nicely as a bridge between the styles, starting with a reinterpretation of “Gate of Nanna” (The Gate of Inanna), which is honestly the only really disjointed part of the record. Shifting into a full length’s worth of occult and desolate electronics with some black metal vocals, you’d be remiss in thinking any of these songs couldn’t fit onto Drawing Down the Moon as interludes. I remember a friend telling me at the time that the material on this record was in fact meant to be used in such a fashion for another black metal Beherit record but, due to circumstances surrounding the band at the time, became its own thing. I know I could look this up, but I like to think half the fun of reading my nonsense is that you get to research it yourself, which results in you possibly learning something, plus you get to tell me I’m wrong in some web forum I’ll probably never read.

The record really starts to feel comfortable in its own skin about 15 minutes in and by the time it ends, you feel as though you’ve experienced a complete picture. But honestly, this just feels like a precursor to Beherit’s next (and, for a few decades, final) record, Electric Doom Synthesis.

If H418ov21.C felt like a transition from black metal while retaining a much of the traditional Beherit sound, Electric Doom Synthesis abandons everything that came before it and has nothing to do with black metal beyond the name Beherit, with the exception of a few sparse moments here and there. That doesn’t mean this isn’t as dark and oppressive as The Oath of Black Blood. It might even be more so, especially in moments like the latter half of “Ambush,” where the sirens begin almost subliminally, building into a near anxiety attack crescendo with the synth. While there are moments like “We Worship” that will remind you where he came from, sole remaining member Holocausto Vengeance (né Marko Laiho) isn’t taking long to think about the past, instead spending most of this record looking into his post-Beherit future making occult soundscapes and eventually immersing himself into DJ culture before making a brief return with what is possibly the best “reunion” record ever in black metal, and probably Beherit’s finest record: Engram.

The highlight of this record, and this era of Beherit, for me, is the song “Drawing Down the Moon,” which is just the repetition of a guitar riff with building synth layers behind it. It’s not even necessarily a very dark song, but it has a certain feeling of self-confident triumph to it and shows how far Laiho had come from the primitive origins of Beherit.

With how much people seem to be lauding the new era of various synth waves, it’s fairly surprising that neither of these records get held up amongst a lot of the lesser nonsense people seem to dig in the electronic/ambient genres as trailblazers, or at least decades ahead of their time. By the time you finish listening to Electric Doom Synthesis, you should be struck with how much Laiho had grown as an artist and how his vision had matured, especially considering the relatively short time between demos to final full-length. You should be struck by the fucking balls to release something like these two records in a black metal scene that was (if this is even possible) more caustic and un-inclusive to new ideas than it is today. Really the only other project that was doing something like this was Bhaobhan Sidhe, and I think you can get arrested for listening to them now.

Sure, more people appreciate these records than ever before, but it’s still a minority within many circles. It doesn’t have neon imagery and a sound like the score to Miami Vice if that score was played by sentient, greased-up dicks. Maybe that’s the problem: these records aren’t reliant on imagery and both were obviously written without any regard to the feelings of die-hard fans who only wanted to hear the chaotic intensity of earlier Beherit. Or maybe that’s what makes these records special and has made them hold up over decades.