Beyond any generic definition, this is extreme. Extreme metal, extreme music, extreme humanity. Although the impression given at times, of gauntness and plainness of black metal, Bethlehem’s music contains the most fragile and utter low sides of the human essence. The album profoundly captures those sole moments, when you can hold your own oblivion in your palms, when the soul crushes into bits, in the dead of night.
Bethlehem takes the German romance to a point of no return: the vast forests and deep dales engrafted with heavy mists, turns into a grey-black universe, where wanderers won’t reach any destination. Where in dead cities, the pain of living is soaring over and sore your eyes, you will hear this music going into your heart and touching everything, defiles. The sound of those very thin haunted guitars must have driven Werther to touch Albert’s guns.
This is the ultimate opposite to any Pastel-painted world, as seen through the romantic stream. The frantic, desperate vocals of Landfermann can erase every bright image of this world, once believed to be beautiful. His vocals are simply paralyzing and it is not surprising, that Bethlehem had a leading role in creating the sub-genre known as ‘suicide black metal’. The band delivers the black metal into new spheres, proving that the genre once again as multi-faced. It is raw, it is unbelievably dark and it is sad. True, the genre consisted many times on melancholic themes and melodies; however, Bethlehem brought this musical entity its more personal embodiment. It’s not about Satan, incarnating and being worshiped – it is me, it is us, down below in the sewers. This is what abolished the boundaries between the artists, the music and the audience, because everybody hurts.
I’ve mentioned the German romanticism, because I think that the album is the absolute antithesis and at the same time the natural continuation of this heritage, after a turning point of disillusion, becoming a product of the urban epoch, bringing epidemics of alienation and solitude.
Every element in this album is designed to manifest the uselessness of life. In the same vein, every piece is genuine and sincere, just like the album’s name, “You must kill yourself”, maybe to be taken in the melancholic level and maybe just as a testimony of the soul, aching for solidarity. The musical structure is based upon quite basic black metal, slow and disturbing, yet the additional value added to it, starts from the vocals, the chaotic and painful lyrics and ends within unique atmosphere, which is by far the blackest, as if lurked from Faust’s smile, and distinguishes it from all other similar black creations. The raw sound, the buzzing scorching guitars along with the clean and destabilized strumming, even the troubled saxophone in “Dorn meiner Allmacht”, shaped to express the failure of all life.
In order to try and sum it up, let’s return to the well-known German melancholy, ever partner of the romance, who is brought to its highest level in this album. Just think of the grey skies of Caspar David Friedrich, the pure decadence of Georg Grosz, the internal grimness of the Grimm brothers, the ever-tragic point of view of W.G. Sebald and Bertolt Brecht’s pure anger, all boiled together, to a thousand degrees. In her poem “Früher Mittag”, Ingeborg Bachmann speaks of a place, where the German skies are blackening the soil. This is the soundtrack.
01 – Schatten Aus Der Alexander Welt