2020 has been the year we saw some activity from the Beherit camp. In August, NWN Productions released Promo Tape, a reissue of two classic tracks from the past in red cassette featuring an iconic photo of the band. A live album was also independently released a bit later, named "Live in Nokia Finland 8-3-1991", so up to that point it seemed like we are still mooching off their rich early history. What about a completely new full length album on top of that though?
Bardo Exist, unexpectedly dropped, serves as another big surprise of the year. It is the follow-up release of 2009's Engram (not counting 2011's re-release to the mix), a widely talked release of that era, as is anything Beherit put out, and also follows the same kind of turn they did between 1993 and 1994: from a primitive black metal record to a challenging, experimental ambient one, yet this time it only took eleven years instead of one. In bleak aesthetics, the band's wonderful logo strongly poses on the side of what seems to be a smeared black face and is just a beauty to look at.
Being quite interesting to listen to, it surely isn't an average dark ambient work but more of a release characteristic of Beherit's atypical compositional ways. I won't hide that I would listen to bombarding, thick, repetitive riffs by them any day, however Bardo Exist is a proper addition to their back catalog, with all its idiosyncrasies. The album contains eleven tracks and thirty seven minutes of music, with a special edition containing a self-titled, twenty two minute piece, which I haven't heard yet.
The record is not purely aiming to be a dark instrumental soundscape, as different kinds of synths kick in throughout the listen. Discrete elements from a wide array of electronic music are being employed at times, often changing places in the same tune too, in what could be a score for a contemporary art noir movie. Beherit are fans of distorted vocal sounds and they are gracefully used in Bardo Exist too, from the introduction to several parts of other tracks, which are relatively diverse but maintain a settled flow that doesn't break the overall atmosphere.
Highlights are the haunting "Shadow Prayer", "Acid Death Vision", the sudden noise / drone switch after the spacey synths in "Peilien vanki", the pale beats of "Ghost Visitor" and the dim outro "Sorrowers". I liked the nuances of "Extreme Thirst and Insomnia", and how "Silom Vortex" feels like a track that would play once you entered a tavern in an old school RPG game. Bardo Exist is loyal to the character of Beherit, which doesn't always wear the facet of the ugly black metal monster that they might be most famous for. I got behind this band very late, yet this release and its listening process, satisfied me deeply.