Initially released in 1995, GEHENNA delivered an evil yet atmospheric record, Seen Through the Veils of Darkness (The Second Spell), taking lyrical influences from Lucifer, mythology, and magic. It’s been 21 years since the album was released, and now it arrives once more in the form of a reissue. Does it still have the same impact today as it did when initially released?
The album kicks off with Lord of Flies, presenting a pestilent distortion from the get-go, opening with ominous chanting before the main riff kicks in. Somewhat heavy IMMORTAL-esque influences can be heard throughout, which is never a bad thing. The vocals compliment the track well, offering a mix of higher and deeper-pitched growls to refrain from falling into the stereotypical black metal vocal trap. A beautifully orchestrated atmospheric section adds to the immersion of the track, and boosts the overall quality before kicking into a fast-paced riff and the black metal goodness we so cravingly demand.
As Lord of Flies eases off, Shairak Krinnummh enters. Shairak Krinnummh is another strong track on this record, as it really brings in the atmospheric elements the band offers, and pulls it off excellently. The atmosphere created in this track feels almost magical, in that you feel transported into another realm whilst listening to it. The brief exclusions of vocals from time to time allow that immersion to progress, however the vocals do nothing but compliment the track whenever they’re present.
Vinterriket, interestingly the only track on this record with Norwegian lyrics, has a much darker feel to it than the other tracks on the album. While keeping the alluring atmospheric elements, this track still manages to throw damning black metal riffs in your face, in the best way imaginable. Guest vocals from Garm (ULVER) are well received on the track, and are a nice touch.
While several of the tracks on this album aren’t too hard-hitting or overly memorable (but still good), A Myth… is the highlight of the album, and one of the best tracks GEHENNA have created. The 8-minute epic beautifully shows off GEHENNA’s pure talent and musical ability, creating a magical and captivatingly evil atmosphere that draws you in from the start. A Myth… brings forth a sense of wonder while keeping its darker black metal elements clear to see for all, and really pushes forward our current idea of what atmospheric black metal is and should be. The spoken word sections add another layer to the track, without reducing its quality, before throwing you back into the ferocity of GEHENNA’s more evil side. Be it directly or indirectly, you can hear elements and influences from this track in alter atmospheric metal bands (think of a faster-paced AGALLOCH in the opening note pattern). Seen Through the Veils of Darkness (The Second Spell) is a killer album for this track alone.
The album closes with Dark Poems Author, a very satisfying end to GEHENNA’s offering. As with other tracks on the record, it consists of a strong mix of black metal and softer atmospheric elements, however more tilted towards the evil side with the inclusion of a piano adding an incredibly malevolent tone to the track.
Seen Through the Veils of Darkness (The Second Spell) has its positives and negatives as an album. Its biggest strength is the atmosphere GEHENNA create in each track, mixed perfectly with enough brutality to make it an album worth buying. This is amplified thanks to its reissue, with all tracks on the album produced excellently to make every little detail as clear as possible. While it does drag in some places and some songs don’t have as much of an impact as others, it can’t be denied that GEHENNA have created a wonderful black metal album, that could be used easily as an introduction to the genre or a gateway from straight black metal to its atmospheric sibling. What must really be complimented on the re-issue of Seen Through the Veils of Darkness (The Second Spell) is how well balanced the atmospheric and black metal elements are, which is no easy task to pull off.
The re-issue of Seen Through the Veils of Darkness (The Second Spell) is set for release on November 18th via Cacophonous.
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