GEHENNA - Malice (CACOPHONOUS Records CD 1996)
It must be very hard to be fan of a band, whose style was changing so often. Through their 25 years long activity Gehenna went through few (r)evolutions. They started as dark and symphonic sounding black metal band, but later they started to combine black with death metal before exploring more raw black metal sound. If you take albums like "Malice", "Murder" and "WW" then they may even feel like records of three different bands. Personally I like Gehenna, but mainly from their earliest albums. I truly love "Seen Through the Veils of Darkness", which I used to consider as one of my favourite black metal releases (I probably still do). Their third opus titled "Malice" is also a noteworthy and exceptional album and even though I like the second spell a bit more, "Malice" is definitely a good follower to it. It feels like Gehenna was trying with this album to join the ranks of the most popular Norwegian black metal bands of that era. "Malice" was supposed to be Gehenna's "Nemesis Divina", "Anthems to the Welkin at Dusk" or "Enthrone Darkness Triumphant". I honestly don't know what were the sales of this album, when compared to these other popular records of late 90's, but I doubt it was so successful. It's great musically, but it didn't put Gehenna in the same place, where bands like , Emperor or were at that time.
Anyway, from the time perspective all these things don't matter anymore. What counts though is that "Malice" is still a great album and twenty years since its recording it sounds fantastic and it didn't get old or archaic at all. I have a strong weakness for these early Gehenna albums, I admit, so I'm not sure if many people share my opinion that they were that good, but I don't care. "Malice" is great, although it is not completely derived of few faults. There are few things, which I would change and one of them is the album length. With 60 minutes of music, not every song on the album is equally interesting and sometimes this album is a bit boring. "Ad Ad " is the worst example for it I suppose, especially since it's been insanely extended to 14 minutes, where half of it is some sort of ambient / noise, which is simply uninteresting and annoying. It's almost completely opposite to "Seen Through the Veils of Darkness", because the previous album from start to finish had only killer songs and none of them sounded like filler. "Ad Ad " is a filler in my opinion. Such "Before the Seventh Moon" may also have sings of tiresome, but luckily all that doesn't ruin the album. And the advantage of killer songs and killer fragments over those boring and weak ones is huge.
Stylistically "Malice" is very atmospheric black metal album. Gehenna style is a great combination of harsh and aggressive, cold black metal with melodic and epic parts. Keyboards seem to be playing even more important role when compared to "Seen Through the Veils of Darkness", and it feels like they're an instrument equally important to the guitars. What counts for me definitely as a positive aspect is that they do not derive the music of aggression and ferocity. Gehenna sounds vicious and malicious, but atmospheric at the same, what is great. Check such "Made to Suffer", "The Pentagram", "The World Became Flesh" or "Manifestation" - fantastic songs. Even slower songs like "Touched and Left for Dead" sound unbelievably good and I have to say that I love these songs way more than anything has ever recorded. Gehenna is a specialist in creating haunting, dark and mystic aura, with satanic, occult themes in the lyrics that correspondent with the music perfectly. plays some fantastic keyboards parts, but I have to say that the entire band did great job. Dirge Rep's drumming is phenomenal, I also like a lot how and share the vocals. I like their arrangements and the whole work, which was done for "Malice". Cleaner production is also very good, as it kept the rawness of previous album.
Definitely "Malice" is the peak of Gehenna's creativity and their last album from them, which I really like so much. After that the band has long some of its magic. " Black" is still pretty solid and good, I like it, but with "Murder" they lost me completely. Then "WW" is a fairly good comeback to pure black metal sound, but then again "Unveil" is a boring and forgettable effort. So it looks like Gehenna has its ups and downs, but if I was going to recommend you any of their albums then I would only suggest you checking those old ones.
Standout tracks: "She Who Loves the Flames", "Made to Suffer", "Touched and Left for Dead", "Bleeding the Blue Flame", "The World Became Flesh"