1993 was arguably the greatest year in the history of black metal: Darkthrone’s Under a Funeral Moon, Enslaved’s Víkínglígr Veldí, Immortal’s Pure Holocaust, Burzum’s Det Som Engang Var… Beherit’s Drawing Down the Moon? Many have suggested that Beherit’s full length debut belongs on this list. How the album came to have such a reputation is a true mystery. The album fails at virtually every level, combining an exceptionally dull performance with poor songwriting and minimal aesthetic sensibility.
Drawing Down the Moon is typically described as a black metal album, and this is primarily a consequence of the Satanic lyrical themes. Musically, there is not much here that qualifies as black metal: no tremolo, blast beats or screeched vocals. At times this sounds a little like Celtic Frost circa To Mega Therion (though that album isn’t black metal, strictly speaking) but by and large this is closer to death metal than black. The riffs are meaty, the vocals are guttural and the tempo is slow. Whatever the album is classified as, it fails.
The musicians are very low caliber. The riffs are all fairly similar: slow to mid tempo, primitive, vapid in melody or hooks and void of power. It sounds like there is only one guitar playing, which makes the riffs lack the force they are presumably aiming for. The percussion is no better. The patterns are plodding and monotonous. Thus, by default, the vocals are what stand out. Mr. Nuclear Holocausto Vengeance’s vocals are fairly standard guttural death growls, though they tend to be electronically modified and overproduced. There are also some really poor spoken word passages where Mr. Vengeance wails Satanic poetry in an effeminate tone.
The compositions are painfully simple and unimaginative. Though the songs are only 3-4 minutes apiece, the lack of variety or depth makes them feel much longer. Aesthetically, this album is pretty weak. While it does create a humid and dirty atmosphere, it doesn’t do so in a very powerful way. There are countless death metal bands that achieve the same aesthetic with much more force. A band like Incantation, for example, will literally make you feel as if you’re smothering to death in a filthy, inescapable chasm. In contrast, Drawing Down the Moon is more like being in a dirty apartment with the heater on. The trash hasn’t been taken out in weeks, the dishes are piled up and there’s a flea ridden dog sleeping on the couch. You’re not exactly itching to look in the fridge, but you’re not exactly scared or overwhelmed. Mostly you just feel like you’re wasting your time.
There are also some completely out of place ambient passages. These sound like the soundtrack to some movie about explorers hunting for a lost tribe in the Amazon. For example, “Summerland” consists of synthesized tribal drumming and pan flute over a bed of late night ambient noises. These passages are actually decent, but completely contrast with the hot, stuffy atmosphere of the metal tracks. Add incoherence and lack of vision to Beherit’s flaws.
A bad album by any standard, Drawing Down the Moon is totally undeserving of the hype it has received over the years. There are literally thousands of black and death metal albums that are better than this. Spend your time listening to something else and leave this one for the hype-mongers.