When Profanatica could not finish their unreleased album, the genius and creator of the band Paul Ledney took time away from the noise of other musicians to fully realize his vision in composing a short album that took the best of his influences from all over the underground into creating something that would show the world the extent of the musical genius that this man possessed and that he was much more than an alumnus of a few great bands. In this final piece in the Craft of Metal series, we look at one album that managed to open new branches for what was to remain of the underground as the Death metal movement had just began to explode with bands getting signed by big labels all over the place and leaving the most repulsive bands to grow far from the spotlight.
The techniques used on this record vary immensely and take influence from the simplistic black metal of the first wave, early death metal bands like Massacre and Revenant (Paul Ledney played briefly in this legendary NYDM band) and the more established and percussive sound produced in the aforementioned area. Such a variety of techniques are held together in elementary melodies; otherwise the compositions would have a carnival effect of attempting to insert too much information into such a small space. Never more than two techniques appear on a single composition so that they don’t impede upon the fluidity of each song. These techniques can be sorted into the following categories:
• Tremolo picked single notes in rapid changing flurries
• Tremolo power chord
• Tremolo picked notes held over a few beats
• Slow power chord progression
• Percussive breakdowns of fourths and power chords
• Slow picked single note melodies
• Pinch harmonics
While in a Death metal context this list of techniques is nothing out of the ordinary and is diminutive for a lot of the more technically proficient bands but in this caveman mixture of Death and Black metal, there are far more than most artists with a similar mindset can manage but Havohej use these only to build melodies held within the already established chromatic/minor scale melodic framework. The note selection is very similar to that of Immolation where most songs here seek to resolve by returning to the root note from a more consonant interval and giving a more fitting sense of resolution than just returning to the root note or as close as possible exclusively through the chromatic scale which is something that has plagued the large of majority bands as this imprisons their musical language. By resolving their melodies through consonance Havohej can then springboard onto other ideas with ease without having to rely on over used devices like the speed metal stop and start. What is entirely unimaginable yet works perfectly is the outright use of the more percussive riffs found in Immolation’s catalogue being used as central pieces in some compositions. Paul Ledney purposefully makes the melody longer while not palm muting as hard so that the notes have more breathing space and that the underlying progression can be heard easily while pushing the rhythm back to a supporting role.
Havohej take the complex and sprawling death metal of New York contemporaries Incantation and Immolation and extract the essence of their sound into short black metal compositions leaving aside the riff mazes and the long narrative arrangements in favor of short and direct arrangements that stood out from the grindcore bands of the time as Havohej does not seek to deconstruct a set of themes but to play upon small variations of a few ideas that resolve in furious catharsis. Fifteen tracks add up to a total of thirty minutes yet every composition manages to achieve cohesion within itself and flows fluidly into the next track barring “Holy Bloody Grail” which is more a build-up piece than anything else as it sticks to one overly simple idea. Though some of the songs are divided into two parts they are united in emotional content rather than any surface traits. The song structures rely on conveying anger, disgust and a call to violence but not in the direct manner that a lot of inferior bands have attempted that ended being monotonous and essentially single-minded bashing of the lower notes on a guitar. Paul Ledney is not one note in his anger and he portrays the various shades associated with such a sentiment by relying heavily on his Death metal instincts of chaining opposing rhythms and cadences in a fluid manner but with the added flair for smoothness in transitions that was brought over from black metal.
Let us look at the track “Weeping In Heaven” that brings to light in very explicit terms Ledney’s intentions for this album. Beginning with a slow crawling ominous riff that owes so much to Black Sabbath and Incantation, building up in anger to the point where the music stops just long enough for the iconic “I vomit on god’s child” that is the catalyst that pushes the music into furious overdrive as fast chromatic melody explodes in every direction. Slowing down into a minor scale riff as the initial fury has passed and is replaced with a more pensive and controlled anger that is accentuated by pinch harmonics that signify the disgust for religion shown here. The music then repeats the previous duality showing the relationship between uncontrollable rage and lucid thoughts of hatred. The composition ends in one climax comprised of previous ideas condensed together played at high speeds as the throat shredding vocals maintain a long scream.
“Behold the Prince of Peace” shows an interesting facet to this band by demonstrating mockery and taunting Christ through the cloak of anger while musically exploring a singular fully developed Bathoryesque idea that seeks to degrade and humiliate in sadistic pleasure. In exactly one minute the song iterates a theme in bursts of single tremolo notes and fast picked power chords playing an interesting progression that becomes longer and more developed until it has reached its full potential and just stops as nothing else needs to be said.
Dethrone the Son of God is an incredible achievement for two main reasons. In a time where underground metal was rapidly progressing from the raw sonic blast of Hellhammer to the complex and sprawling works of Morbid Angel and then reaching into so many different directions with their own unique musical languages, Havohej continue progression not by making their music more complex but by finding their own language in a very large sea and retaining only the most important essence and essentially uniting the opposing Death and Black metal movements into one cohesive whole that remains unmatched to this day both as a work of art and as a textbook on how to unite different strains of metal into an entirely unique and destructive whole.