Black" is a fourth full length album from Norwegian band Gehenna, released back in 1999. And this is a very surprising release. At time of its release I was almost shocked that a band, which was famous for their fantastic dark and malicious black metal records, with a strong atmospheric and almost symphonic sound decided to change their music for more death / black metal sort of style. Obviously at that time many old Norwegian acts started to evolve and change their music – with better or worse results. Let's just listen to late 90's albums from , Mayhem, Immortal, Arcturus, Enslaved, to name few. It was really weird to watch this development. I wonder what are your thoughts on it nowadays and what were you thinking back in the day about it. I have to say that I like what some of these bands have done, but some other really turned into garbage. Gehenna is one of those bands, which I can say that have done quite good work and their fourth album is not bad at all. Not as good as their earlier stuff, but solid and enjoyable for sure.
So, gone is the atmospheric black metal. Instead " Black" presents really pissed off and aggressive mixture of death and black metal. Since has left the band (along Dirge Rep), keyboards parts have been very limited and their influence on the sound and songs is much smaller. The album is more riff based and mostly displays an aggressive and vicious wall of guitar ripping with lots of blasts. The music sounds quite powerful and violent, it definitely is not pure black metal anymore, although you can easily hear influences from black metal, in many riffs, arrangements and even in the vocals of and . I have to say that this change from atmospheric black metal to death / black metal from " Black" sounds quite good and for me personally this actually is an interesting change. Especially because Gehenna managed to come with music that sounds quite original and I think that none other band has ever sounded alike to this album. More so, " Black" is filled with some killer songs and so it's just damn good listen (unlike "Murder", their next album, which sadly wasn't that good anymore).
While "Malice" was an hour long and was very extended, " Black" is only 35 minutes long, which is good. This way the music sounds even more powerful and straight forward, more aggressive and has no signs of time waste or fillers. A lot of these songs, with their uncompromising sound, kick ass hard. Let's just mention such "The Killing Kind" with its almost / black feeling accompanied by some keyboard background or "Deadlights", which has some of the best riffs on the album. When you listen to these songs, or the following title track, you can hear that the band has changed their riffs style so much that it's almost like completely different act now, which is equally good as bad. Good, because the band did what they liked and didn't repeat themselves. Bad, because if you loved the previous albums and expected them to carry on their original style, then " Black" disappointed you. I do of course miss the mystic and haunted aura of the previous albums, but luckily "..." offers enough good music to let this small disappointment go.
I am glad though, especially as a fan of two previous records, that Gehenna hasn't completely forgotten about the atmospheric side of their music and here and there they included more atmospheric parts, where keyboards play a little more important role. Of course they don't sound like haunting and malicious black metal anymore, but it's better this than nothing. In the title song all these parts with keyboards sound pretty much like the previous album, so that's a small consolation for the older fans of the band (it's fantastic song, by the way!). Very slow paced and dark, heavy sounding "The Devil's Work" is also a noteworthy song and one of my favourites on the album. It probably is the most atmospheric track here, so it should yet appeal to the fans of old Gehenna.
Standout tracks: "Deadlights", " Black", "Devil's Work"
Final rate: 75/100