Bethlehem

Picture of Bethlehem

Sardonischer Untergang Im Zeichen Irreligiöser Darbietung

Bethlehem - Sardonischer Untergang Im Zeichen Irreligiöser Darbietung ©1998 Red Stream
1. Durch Befleckte Berührung Meiner Nemesis
2. Du Sollst Dich Töten
3. Gestern Starb Ich Schon Heute
4. Teufelverrückt Gottdreizehn
5. Tote Weiße Marder
6. Nexus
7. Luftstehs' Lbläh
8. Als Ich Noch Caulerpa Taxifolia Erbrach
9. Tod Ist Weicher Stuhl In Gar Fleischlos' Gift

Apparently being avant-garde and eerie is what Bethlehem is striving for. Filled with inhumanly tortured vocals, shpooky passages, female screaming, and a musical approach that strays from black metal to odd doomy sort of metal and some ambience, Bethlehem succeeds at creating nothing more than annoying background music for the most part. The terrified shrieking is only successful at causing extreme ire at the music, rather than the mood they are striving for. I've played this album several times looking for something to capture my attention but overall it just becomes very pedestrian. The quiet mood setting parts don't segue well with the heavier sections. I suppose if you're searching for something bizarre that still retains an evil, scary black metal feel, you might get into this. As for myself, this is about as aesthetically pleasing as The Nanny and equally as entertaining.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 12/1998

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Profane Fetmilch Lenzt Elf Krank (single)

Bethlehem - Profane Fetmilch Lenzt Elf Krank (single) ©2000 Prophecy Productions
1. Gar Albern Es Uns Totgebar
2. Von Bittersüssem Suizid

In the past, the concept of reviewing Bethlehem was not exactly something I looked forward to. Given their tendency to lapse into extremely grating "spooky" screaming and avant garde muck, I had yet to be very impressed with any of their recorded work. Fast forward to year 2000 and I find myself in the possession of a two song single from the band, which has been available as a limited seven inch single up to now. Apparently somewhere in the past couple years the band has rid themselves of a lot of the excessive traits to a more streamlined approach to extreme metal and the results are a welcome change. Both songs on this brief disc contain a healthy amount of flow and retain cohesiveness throughout, rather than decaying into disparate passages of shrieking. There are still elements of weirdness (such as the creepy chanting in "Gar albern es uns totgebar") but it is much more balanced than on previous releases. At times, Bethlehem 2000 comes across a bit like Sigh, although not nearly as eclectic as those Japanese lads. Bethlehem is definitely in the same field of oddness as Sigh, however. The one drawback to this single is that the two songs only hint and fire up one's interest before suddenly ending after the two songs. I can safely say I'm very interested to hear what this band will accomplish on their next full length.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 11/2000

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Schatten Aus Der Alexander Welt

Bethlehem - Schatten Aus Der Alexander Welt ©2002 Red Stream/Prophecy Productions
CD one:
1. Radio Ein/radiosendung1
2. Maschinensohn
3. Radiosendung2
4. Somnambulismus In Maschinenzimmer 30
5. Radiosendung3
6. Mein Kuss Erstickt Im Imperativ
7. Radiosendung4
8. Mary Samaels NFB
9. Dunkle, Kalte Materie
10. Radiosendung5
11. Das 4 Tier Ass Den Mutterwitz
12. Radiosendung6
13. Rost, Whan & Tote Gleise
14. Radiosendung7
15. Tod Einer Dieselkatze
16. Radio Aus
17. Aus Dunkler Ritze Truchtig Wahn
18. Special Rmxs Of Classic Material
CD two:
19. Der Dorsch
20. Bis Bald
21. Rote Lampe
22. Tal
23. Mi
24. Nautilus
25. (Harmann) E.
26. Pantegane
27. (H&G) Saltatrix
28. Marzahn
29. Aeter

Bethlehem has certainly come quite a ways since their early "dark metal" music in the mid-90s. As noted in my review for their 2000 single, Profane Fetmilch lenzt elf krank, Bethlehem has begun edging away from their harsh, grating extreme metal towards a considerably more ear-friendly approach. However, all that has been completely set on its side with Schattens aus der Alexander Welt, a two CD journey through one of the more impressive audio landscapes I've heard in quite some time.

Since my German skills are as strong as my ability to translate Navajo code, I cannot fully report the concept behind this expansive concept album. According to an interview with the band, the album roughly is a journey through a character's world, known as Alexander World, where he meets with a variety of archangels. The story is told in a radio play theme, with occasional radio sound interludes acting as between song interludes. And since I only understand German beer, I can't get any deeper than that brief, nearly useless summation. Needless to say it is the music itself that speaks throughout these two CDs. The two CDs are separated into the standard release, which is disc one, and a reinterpretation through ambient soundscapes on the second disc. The first disc covers a huge amount of musical territory, from death metal to goth to trip-hop rhythms and much, much more. Much of the singing is precisely that: singing, not the soul-quaking shrieking of yesteryear. The calmer moments of the album, especially the warmth and transcendental qualities of "Mary Samaels NFB", are highly impressive, particularly considering how unsettling this band once was. Although a single listen may not thread the album together, successive experiences of this album help make sense of it and it becomes a single entity that requires one to listen in a single sitting, transfixed. The second disc is a considerably more ambient affair, taking the listener through rather deconstructed soundscapes that occasionally are a touch disturbing. However, as a companion to the main CD, the music contained within make it a continuous listen from the first disc to second.

The band's label as described this CD creating a "rare" metal genre. However, this is the type of music that defies the necessity to stuff every single musical creation into a safe category. Rather, Bethlehem has scoured the musical world for influence and come up with a breathtakingly impressive, cohesive piece of work. Most importantly, the seamless quality of the songcrafting helps it avoid sounding like a muddled hodge-podge, which happens far too often with bands exploring a variety of genres of music. This album should appeal to the more adventurous of music listeners who crave a dark, ponderous and rewarding experience.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 07/2002

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