Celebrating twenty five years as a band as only they know how, Bethlehem unleash the darkness once more as only they know how with their ninth album and this self titled behemoth of brooding black metal is the band showcasing possibly their heaviest material yet.
With a new lineup that features returning drummer Wolz as well as new guitarist Karzov and Darkened Nocturn Slaughtercult frontman Onielar who takes up the vocalist mantle here alongside longtime Bethlehem mainman Jurgen Bartsch eager to make an impression and that is certainly what to do.
The band waste absolutely no time in demonstrating their black metal devastation with the crushing Fickselbomber Panzerplause and the heaviness doesn’t let up in many different ways until the last notes are drained from the albums final song and this is an album that sees the band pay tribute to their Dark Metal roots with a raw and unhinged set of pure black metal madness. The highlights in here are plentiful but the dirge of Die Dunkelheit Darbt has to be the pick of the bunch, a raw and unforgiving bass led monster of a song that seems to owe as much to Discharge in places as to Hellhammer.
It’s not all darkness and face crushing metal as there are moments on the album where there are elements of true heaviness of a different nature such as Onielars anguished screams over some chilling piano scales on the track Kalt’ Ritt In Leicht Faltigrt Leere, a track that alternates between full on metal and an even more unsettling ambience in what is a truly heavy song in more ways than one. The mid paced and eerie Gangel Gangel Gang is another unsettling song with spoken word passages throughout making the track sound like the stuff of nightmares, especially when it ends with the sounds of harrowing screams.
The production on Bethlehem is first class throughout and the sound that the band have is enhanced by that quality with a perfect rawness as well as a catchiness at certain points too that cannot ever be faked and the band firing on all cylinders with their playing for the albums duration. The vocals as of Onielar fit the bands sound extremely well too and he is more than up to the job as Bethlehem vocalist (just check out his commanding vocals on penultimate song Verdammnis Straft Gezugeltes Aas for proof).
Despite being an active band for two and a half decades, Bethlehem sound like a new band and maybe that is in part to a freshened up lineup but they seem to have even more of an appetite for blasphemy and evil and that is what makes this such a fantastic listen. Bethlehem are well and truly back and with this album you can fully embrace their raw and violent black metal sound.