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BEHEMOTH: Grom Reissue

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Metal Blade Records

Out Now

Words by Greg Walker

Polish church botherers Behemoth first unleashed their second full-length outing Grom way back in 1996, but it’s still foremost in the hearts of their trve kvlt fans, being the last remnant of Behemoth’s trve Black Metal days before Nergal and team began employing a more palatable modern production aesthetic with reduced kvlt. Aptly titled after the Polish word for thunder, this upcoming reissue boasts vinyl and CD formats brimming with rare bonus material including never before released studio covers, rehearsals, and live tracks from the period, 24-48 page booklets full of exclusive archival content, all beautifully presented in enhanced packaging.

Opener The Dark Forest is example enough for those who haven’t delved this far back in Behemoth’s catalogue. Super abrasive guitars brimming with ultra-buzzing electricity, endemic of the scene in the day, their brand of blistering speed overlaid with throat-shredding spooky vocals summons images of a Scandinavian winter blizzard drenched in midday darkness. Yet at this early stage Behemoth’s musicality seeps through, quite effectively marrying their varied influences with acoustic guitars and synthesizers, and infusing a sprinkling of clean female and male vocals, the latter of which come across almost comically strained in places.

There are moments throughout the album where a more melodic riffing and flow seeps through, exposing in hindsight the Blackened Death Metal direction Behemoth would seek in subsequent releases. Still, the production approach suits the material exceptionally well, the guitars higher in the mix than other aspects, which suits this listener in a fit of nostalgic pining for the decidedly low-fi efforts of the Black Metal pioneers of the early to mid-1990s. Grom is a couple of steps above the primitive studio sounds of Norway circa 1992, but if that methodology is what you’re looking for, then this re-release’s bonus tracks are exactly the sort of titbits you’re looking for.

The likes of rehearsal bonuses Rising Proudly Towards The Sky and Dragon’s Lair (Cosmic Flames and Four Barbaric Seasons), while being quality compositions and performances, sound like they were recorded on a cheap boombox set up in the corner of the room, taped on a generic cassette that had already been copied over and over umpteen times. And while that can and does come across as a negative it really isn’t, because it revives fond memories of sitting in week after week with our old mates from Lismore band Sanhedrin around the same period, recording sessions of their flavour of death metal exactly as I just described. Hearing their demo now, I can still smell the rehearsal space, the dank carpet that had been under Lismore’s Wilsons River more times than I’m comfortable considering, a simpler time when we were still young and dumb and in awe of the world. And it’s this nostalgia that I’m sure Behemoth smell and feel when listening to the bonus rehearsal and live tracks, and for that I’m thankful because hearing the quality (or lack thereof as mentioned) has been an unexpected but most welcome trip down memory lane.

The three cover songs that head up the bonus disc were recorded in the same era as the Grom album (1995/1996) and suitably represent a number of angles of the early Behemoth stratagem. Including the Black Metal mayhem of Freezing Moon by Norway’s scene overlords Mayhem, the relentless thrash of Destruction‘s Total Desaster, and a seeming left-of-centre inclusion of Ostanti Tabor by Polish 80s heavy metal giants KAT, a version that Behemoth has infused with all the elements of the prior two covers as well as the heavy rock angle of the original source material, rendering this interpretation their own and thus the most intriguing track in this collection. 

Closing out the bonus tracks, the live rendition of Lasy Pomorza is more in line with representing modern Behemoth, executed with the precision, clout, and extravagance of their current day live show, which is not surprising since it was recorded in 2021. Dragged well into the 21st century, this deep cut’s performance really does highlight the abilities of a once up-and-coming band, a revelation that may have somewhat been hindered by the studio limitations available at the time, but this the fans have always known.

A standout of its day in hindsight, Grom is positioned strongly amidst the releases of the period, Behemoth surviving the implosion of elements of the Scandinavian movement to become a gold standard of the burgeoning scene that rose from the ashes of the old. And this reissue is a welcome reminder of where Behemoth came from and how they became the behemoth they are in today’s metal world.

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