Beherit’s Classic Drawing Down the Moon Turns 30
Looking back on the release of Beherit’s full-length debut album Drawing Down the Moon, we’d like to imagine it was a particularly biting, cold winter’s day back in 1993. Recognized by many as a seminal black metal release, it should go without saying that if Drawing Down the Moon isn’t in your top ten of all time, you are in dire need of a black metal re-education.
Although we mostly talk about the Norwegian artists behind the glorious second wave of black metal, Drawing Down the Moon actually hails from Finland. Drawing Down the Moon has always served as a source of Finnish pride within the BM scene. For this (inter)national treasure, we can thank “Nuclear Holocausto Vengeance,” or Marko Laiho. He personally handled the guitar, vocals, and electronics on Drawing Down the Moon, while also composing the music and lyrics. Without the collaborative efforts of “Black Jesus,” bassist Santtu Siippainen, and drummer “Necroperversor,” Pekka Virkanen, this album likely wouldn’t be what it is.
Even I, a maniacal black metal warrior, must admit that the movement is greatly contaminated by cheesiness. In stark contrast, Drawing Down the Moon is an elevated experimental offering that stimulates. This classic remains a work of modern art that continues to give us the feeling that we are receiving a sublime gift. Thus, Drawing Down the Moon is the kind of record you could listen to every day. No matter how many times you enjoy “The Gate of Nanna,” for example, it never loses its irresistible appeal. Laiho’s riffs and vocals are absolutely addictive and eternally refreshing.
Beherit is a major pioneer behind the use of electronic elements in black metal. The way Laiho incorporated computer-altered vocals, synths, and so forth is brilliant. Those elements enhance Drawing Down the Moon’s uncanny charm and pair beautifully with Beherit’s raw, bestial aggression. Unfortunately, however, many less talented artists fail in their attempts to include these ingredients and end up weakening their music — proof that the originals usually do things the best.
Drawing Down the Moon is furthermore distinguished by its minimalism. It is also slower than most black metal efforts. These traits make this record both more delightfully primitive and evil but also more sophisticated. In addition, Drawing Down the Moon is not an offering that will assault you with its volume. Rather, it begs you to turn it up in order to fully appreciate it. This is a quality that the revered musician and engineer Kark, for instance, greatly values. As the Dødsengel frontman told From the Bowels of Perdition: “That is a part of the magick of older records. Too many records these days scream at you before you have even touched the volume knob.” All of that, said, Drawing Down the Moon has a fair amount of variety. “Werewolf, Semen and Blood,” for example, brings a very special energy.
Whereas it is so easy for Satanic lyrics to feel tired, Beherit truly invokes the power of The God Below himself. Drawing Down the Moon immediately presents us with words that were originally penned by Anton Lavey in “Intro (Tireheb).” Real Satanists, as in theistic Satanists, obviously despise that guy. Nevertheless, the intro works beautifully in context. It gives way to the famous “Salomon Gate’s.” Beherit likewise works in Odinism, for example. Beherit ignites our fantasies with Laiho’s powerful, orgasm-inducing texts. Take this section of “Sadomatic Rites”:
“Pagan gods dwell
Within the city walls
Naked bodies fuck
Fornicate on Christian altar
Living in eternal lust
Sodomites and blasphemers
Sinning sex, bestial rape!
Agony and pain, paradise lost…”
Yes, the ritualistic feel of Drawing Down the Moon is a result of the band’s true will to explore spirituality. Over the years, Laiho has continued to prove that he is a man of depth, substance, and complex beliefs. Eventually, his inner evolution would even lead him to travel the East, where he learned more about Buddhism, Taoism, etc.
Unfortunately, Drawing Down the Moon would be Laiho’s last effort with other members around him until Engram (2009), which represented part of a brief return to black metal. After the EP Messe Des Morts (1993), the lone wolf Laiho released dark ambient albums under the Beherit moniker: H418ov21.C (1994), Electric Doom Synthesis (1996), Bardo Exist (2020), and WBRRR (2023) as NHV Beherit. That said, in 2021, Laiho told Rauta that he would like to record an album with other members again.
Perhaps part of what we learn from Beherit’s dark ambient work is that a release can be “black metal” without being black metal in a literal sense. Beherit’s ambient recordings also testify to the fact that Laiho has done the very opposite of sell out. No, Beherit has never been about the money. In fact, at the time of its release, Drawing Down the Moon was the antithesis of a commercially minded album. Laiho actually had to sell some of his possessions in order to fund the effort.
We cannot conclude without also acknowledging that Laiho has made much material outside of Beherit. His offerings tend to defy categorization. Laiho worked under the Suuri Shamaani banner, for instance, and even without project names. Laiho has similarly doubled as the techno DJ Gamma-G. On a very different note, it would be criminal if we neglected to extol the virtues of Laiho’s defunct early erotic outfit Goat Vulva, which also included Beherit’s “Sodomatic Slaughter,” or Jari Pirinen. Laiho’s varied body of work only intensifies our already epic respect for him as an innovator. Of course, we are very excited to hear how Beherit’s two planned shows in Japan that are set for spring 2024 will play out. This will be their very first black metal performance outside of Finland.