Isn’t it ironic how inherently creepy and demonic religious sounds and imagery can be? I mean, on one hand The Bible is full of ghastly horrors and violent actions yet people still congregate to Churches and the like all over the world as a means to find a sense of purpose and peace.
Something as simple as the sound of an organ can deliver such a prominent horrific tone to pretty much anything. If you don’t believe me, take a video of yourself tying your shoelaces or making pizza sauce and add the sound of the most cheery song but perform it on the evil instrument. Atmospherically the sound of those Satan pipes can enhance the feeling of even the most menial of tasks. Did you just catch the biggest fish in the lake? Listen to an organ playing on your radio and instantly you have just become the wicked warlock of the waterways. It is powerful and eerie and is the instrument I find most representative of the Halloween season. Phantom Of The Opera and Carnival Of Souls would be nothing without the harrowing sound of this, one of the unholiest creations from within the house of God.
Gehenna: First Spell (1994)
The aptly-named album First Spell is Gehenna’s debut studio recording and second EP. It opens with the lonely swelling of a lonely organ sound in the song The Shivering Voice Of The Ghost. This alone warrants the inclusion of this album on this list. If that isn’t clear enough, read the bit of organ ranting I just wrote in the preface to this post, or don’t. Who the hell am I to tell you what to do?
There is something very cinematic about this entire package. It is a thick, foggy rhythm and crisp melody that permeates throughout all five of it’s tracks and the cover-art evokes imagery from Ingmar Bergman’s The Seventh Seal. The songs are paced and sequenced in such a way that they become much more than the sum of their parts and more like a constructed script or narrative and at a brisk twenty-six and a half minutes it is free of any missteps or filler, unlike this write-up.
The production is very raw yet clear and concise. It is a bit surprising to me that Gehenna would later opt for a more traditional sound on subsequent albums as this is pure perfection to my ears. This is purely subjective but then again, what isn’t when it comes to an opinion piece? All I know is that I’ve been trying to replicate this record’s guitar and drum tone since it came out to no avail. It is rich and complex while maintaining that classic, cold, organic Black Metal sound.
Perhaps the most significantly unique and appealing thing about First Spell is the acoustic guitar that exists sporadically throughout. It cohesively gives the entire record a bit of a folksy campfire feel, almost as if the entire thing was written and performed along a journey across varying plains, through many different struggles. The acoustic seems rooted and sincere and interestingly only used as a texture rather than the draw in the forefront.
Similarly, the variety of keys performed throughout each of the songs seem present to strictly offer ambiance. They are much more prominent than the acoustic guitar but only when it comes to how frequent they are used. After awhile they become little more than a consistent ally to the typical, heavier guitars, drums and vocals. It is a fantastic touch that makes this one of my favorite Metal albums.
Each Gehenna project is of the highest quality and their entire catalog of music is a preference of mine over most of their contemporaries. First Spell is my personal favorite of theirs but also the one that is best suited for this list. It is perfect October listening for anyone, including those who aren’t particularly fond of heavier music. Technically it is superbly performed and concisely written but not so harsh that a casual listener would find it repelling or harsh. As they have said many times in interviews, “Gehenna is about creating good music,” and I can’t disagree.