Metal Blade
rating icon 7.5 / 10

Track listing:

01. Intro
02. The Dark Forest (Cast Me Your Spell)
03. Spellcraft and Heathendom
04. Dragon's Lair (Cosmic Flames And Four Barbaric Seasons)
05. Lasy Pomorza
06. Rising Proudly Towards The Sky
07. Thou Shalt Forever Win
08. Grom
09. Freezing Moon (MAYHEM Cover 1995/1996)
10. Total Desaster (DESTRUCTION Cover 1995/1996)
11. Ostatni Tabor (KAT Cover 1996)
12. Rising Proudly Towards the Sky (Rehearsal 1995)
13. Dragon's Lair (Cosmic Flames And Four Barbaric Seasons) (Rehearsal 1995)
14. The Dark Forest (Cast Me Your Spell) (Live in Maastricht, Pagan Triumph Tour 1996)
15. Spellcraft and Heathendom (Live in Maastricht, Pagan Triumph Tour 1996)
16. Lasy Pomorza (Live in Krakòw, XXX Years Ov Blasphemy 2021)

The full-froth, venomous-to-the-extreme BEHEMOTH was still a few years away come 1996's "Grom". It's apparent mainman Nergal (real name: Adam Darski) was still in the clutches of the Scandinavian black metal movement, with decided nods toward early IMMORTAL, MAYHEM and SATRYICON. BEHEMOTH combined that with many forest-y tropes central to mid-'90s black metal, particularly the wandering acoustic bits and female vocals. "Grom" hardly indicates where BEHEMOTH would end up more than 25 years later. Perhaps that's why it's now getting the proper reissue treatment via Metal Blade Records.

The perfunctory, trebly guitar tone sets the pace throughout "Grom". While it prevents any sort of articulation and is usually a one-way street, it is a staple of the sound and explains why BEHEMOTH digs in so hard, whether on "The Dark Forest (Cast Me Your Spell)" or "Rising Proudly Towards The Sky", where an extended thrash outro makes due. There's a dash of melancholy to a few of these cuts, namely "Spellcraft And Heathendom", where Nergal starts to formulate some of the frenetic vocal phrasings that he'd come to master on later BEHEMOTH releases. The pairing of keyboards and atmosphere pushes "Dragon's Lair (Cosmic Flames And Four Barbaric Seasons") to the top of "Grom". The song also pumps in some quasi-clean vocals, although they're more of an operatic adornment. The band saves the real operatic tradeoffs for the title track, featuring Nergal's ex-girlfriend, Celina. Their duet may not go down in the annals of black metal history, but at least it adds some weight and diversity to the album.

Covers of MAYHEM, DESTRUCTION and KAT (a cult Polish metal band) are tacked onto the reissue. The same goes for some rehearsal and live cuts. (As one would guess, the rehearsal tunes significantly lack sound quality, but that's neither here nor there.) Perhaps the most interesting addition is a 2021 live rendition of the "Grom" cut, "Lasy Pomorza". Hearing the song with modern production values and a mature, seasoned Nergal suggests BEHEMOTH wasn't too far off from the Norwegian bands they were chasing. BEHEMOTH overtook many of them over the last decade, but "Grom" is a worthy snapshot (and reissue) of a band still finding its feet.

Author: David E. Gehlke
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