Review Summary: Gehenna's third effort has a homogizing effect on the band's overall sound, but those craving a well-executed and well-produced mid 90's symphonic black metal album will probably be satisfied with this one.
Gehenna are a second or third tier Norwegian black metal band, starting around 1993 offering a slower and more atmospheric form of symphonic BM. Malice
is their third full length album and it certainly shows influences from Norway's up and comers, but it also manages to hold it's own. Released one year after the excellent Seen Through the Veils of Darkness
is actually a tad bit more restrained and ironically, less furious than its predecessor.
Gehenna play a fairly popular and easily approachable form of symphonic black metal. The instant comparison that comes to mind is Enthrone Darkness
-era Dimmu Borgir (though, check it out, this album predates that one by one year), or a less progressive early Emperor. The guitars and keyboard interact perfectly, offering numerous infectious hooks and several memorable passages.
kicks off with powerful opening track, "She Who Loves the Flame" which is an accurate representation of what is to come - guitar and synth interplay over powerful and fairly triggered drumming. Like many symphonic black metal albums, the bass guitar is hard to spot, but it's there. Classic death metal influences creep up during the opening passages of "The Pentagram," and the slow and plodding "Touched and Left for Dead" may bring to mind Dissection's "Where Dead Angels Lie." (but both albums were released in 96, so who is borrowing from whom?)
Several times while listening to Malice
in fact, you may need to remind yourself that this was released in 1996. It's derivative nature will seem less so if you do. This begs the question why Gehenna managed to fly under the black metal radar for so long. The fact that they did may have led to the frustrations that morphed their subsequent albums, polishing the production, and dropping much of the atmosphere.
Overall, however, even Malice
seems a bit uninspired compared to the previous two albums. This could be partly due to the overly long running time, padded further by the half-atmospheric filler track, "Ad Arma Ad Arma." It may also be a conscious attempt by Gehenna to capitalize on the growing popularity of black metal by offering a less challenging and more easily accessible variation of their music. Whatever the reason, those brand new to the band may be better off starting with First Spell
or the aforementioned Seen Through the Veils of Darkness
just tends to run together after awhile and while it is all very well executed, it is occasionally forgettable.