A strange yet compelling entry in the black metal field, German experimentalists Bethlehem have been around just over a decade, with each succeeding album pushing beyond the boundaries of the last. The band has often promoted itself as "dark metal", which is apt, as their music is dark in the truest sense. A good album to start might be their third, often abbreviated as S.U.I.Z.I.D. as the real title is a mouthful, that being Sardonischer Untertag In Zeichen Irreliogiosen Darbietung. With their earlier efforts being squarely in the black metal camp, by this time they were already starting to work with different ideas, the album itself being a blend of blistering black metal and morose doom, with several quiet moments interspersed to give the album a real sense of death. The guitars are mixed rather distantly (similar to old-school black metal albums in sound quality), lending the album a bleak atmospheric effect. The vocals, too, are a blend of tortured shrieking, some death growls, and the occasional clean vocal. Quite an intense listen. By their fifth album, 2001's Schatten Aus Der Alexander Welt, their experimentalism was at a high, as this album is much more an ambient industrial soundscape than anything resembling traditional metal. Even their more conventional songs are an earful, tricky to get one's mind around what they are trying to accomplish. A very interesting band, even if not for everyone.
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