BOHEMYST – Čerň A Smrt (2021)REVIEW

The auld and deeply set underground black/death metal traditions of this South Bohemian institution have finally found a long overdue third act under a best representative banner of Bohemyst, indicating the importance of place and their own heritage reflected in their work just as they probably should have done back in 2012 when returning for a fifth Avenger full-length (‘Bohemian Dark Metal‘) as they’d begin to indicate a new lease on life. Of course this isn’t a good enough reason to change a band name and become an entirely new entity, is it? The argument for this choice becomes more clear as we approach the veteran quintet’s debut full-length under this new name. ‘Čerň A Smrt‘ (read: “Black Death“) finds a “dark metal” alter-ego outside of expectations and previous incantations but, not entirely. As they pull from classic energies and modern ‘organic’ vibes by sheer muscle memory of a well-cohered writing unit, Bohemyst does what Avenger seemingly always wanted to do — Craft a catchy-yet-heavy brand of black/death metal capable of a thoughtfully applied, theatrically presented narrative. For some listeners it will be enough that this band has their own unique enough sound and three decades of classic extreme metal wisdom applied to their craft yet the baggage of their historicity is a catch twenty-two in some sense. They’ve either got a lot to live up to, or, a lot to bury.

This will be a rare instance where I won’t spray diarrhea upon the hackneyed tradition of the term “dark metal” which was most often used to market former black/death metal bands in the late 90’s as they transitioned into melodic metal that was intentionally in step with larger audiences and major labels. If there is a band that ever deserved the differentiation of dark metal as a unique vision of blackened death metal it was probably Avenger who’d officially formed around 1993 in Volyně, Czechia after a brief death metal incarnation Astaroth ceased. The band members were all fairly young and their demo tapes were very limited so, no great record of the first two demos exists in full (that I know of) but we soon got the second pair of better-known tapes from Avenger in 1994 (‘Minster of Madness‘) and 1995 (‘The Black Zone‘). These offer some important provenance, especially considering the brutality of Czech death at this point (Krabathor, Tortharry, etc.) So, if there is a point to be made deep in the past it is that these fellowes can claim at least one small throne as the first black/death metal hybrid to release a full-length album of any worth in Czechia with ‘Shadows of the Damned‘ (1997) pre-dating the equally impressive Sorath‘s debut as well as Agmen‘s ‘Damnation‘, each of them aiming for a melodic black/death sound which was quite different from Avenger, whom were still very in tune with early 90’s death metal. The ensuing span of Avenger‘s work from 1997-2003 is the main reason I’d write about Bohemyst today, I have such intense fealty for these records having bought at least a few from Deathgasm and various other underground distros over the years and enjoyed the Hell out each of them. The one that still speaks to me loudest is the insanity of ‘Godless (…Assuming the Throne of Immortality…)‘ (2003) largely because the band had shades of Dawn, Aeternus, and this sort of hyper-evolved harmonically resonant voice to their brutal, ‘primitive’ riffing that I still find addictive (see: “In The Darkness”). The two folks at the heart of the 25 year span of Avenger‘s reign are guitarist Petr Rámus Mecák (ex-Master’s Hammer) and Honza Kapák who should be well-known as the drummer for Maniac Butcher, Krieg and also joined Rámus on some of the 2010’s Master’s Hammer releases. From my point of view Avenger was finished with their first and major goal by 2010 and they’d found a different path forward starting with the aforementioned ‘Bohemian Dark Metal’, a more theatrical and modern record with the timpani player to prove it. By 2017’s ‘Mír v harému smrti‘ most of the previous line-up had been replaced or moved on, their sound had been deep-cleaned, sounded even more “modern” by most standards and I believe this altogether different sound allowed the band to begin justifying their moving on from Avenger and creating without the limitations of legacy and expectation.

Bohemyst is a new entity from the same folks, material crafted and perpetuated from behind a new banner that manages to avoid a cold reversion to their old ways, doesn’t pander to any ‘old school’ niche, and certainly feels modern without the cheap, plastic scent we’d gotten from the final Avenger release. If the goal was to move on then, perhaps I’m not helping with my rose-colored glasses for their late 90’s/early 2000’s breakthrough records but I was a stone I was personally determined to overturn before we cut into ‘Čerň A Smrt’. From the start we’re treated to chorale, ominous bombast and a folken nigh Bathory-esque entrance via the otherwise walk n’ growl melodic advance of the opener/title track “Čerň a Smrt”. We transition from a melodic black metal pulse to death’s majesty intertwined starting around ~2:34 minutes into the piece and I would say this was the moment where I’d stopped considering Bohemyst an extension of Avenger and as a project coming from a similar skill set but delivering entirely different music, that which does not exist outside of time but collects the wisdom of the past and fearlessly pulls deeper colors from that extant palette in creating newly viable melodic voice. Each song that follows has a purpose, a knack, a moment of flair that has great potential to stick in mind yet they’ve not scoured every moment of the bluster of extreme metal so, it will either blow by unnoticed or overwhelm the senses depending on the listener. The big Carcass-esque grooves of “Krvuhlas“, the ‘Selfless’-era Godflesh piledriver riffing of “Na Umrlčích Prknech”, and the sweeping occult-blackened reel of “Paní Lesa” only just prepare us for war here as each piece remains unwilling to conform to the act of the past yet they all slink together beautifully in the night.

“Kosti” might just be the most memorable piece here with its charming keyboard hook right up front and by virtue of the ever-charging Romanesque riffing that serves to clean up the mess left behind by ‘Damned in Black’-era Immortal; Here I would say Bohemyst have made their case with an “on fire” moment that gives enough reason to roll back through the full album in anticipation for its seamless press forward and the escalations served along the way. It is also appreciably something we’d just never have expected from their spiritual successor selves. This one song in the middle of the album isn’t the sole selling point and in fact I’d suggest there are only a few moments that truly stand out as big, gawk-worthy hooks or obviate melodies. The long-term appeal of ‘Čerň a Smrt’ comes as they press on with more ideas, the second half persists for good reason with equally captivating action unrelenting until the earlier Septic Flesh-esque gone dissonant bellow of “Nekromantika” gives a small breather with its extended intro. The point is perhaps not made well enough by my own standards — The guitar work provides a thread that allows for a gapless full listen of high theatric value, each song offers its own tangential worth but vitally provides its specific place in the greater arc of ‘Čerň a Smrt’. In this sense we see a higher evolution of the equally elaborate but rarely so focused and “complete” songwriting of the pre-Bohemyst era. This new skin is worth renaming for these reasons, at the very least I can argue that this is a distinct work and pleasurable listen. A high recommendation.

Moderately high recommendation. (76/100)

Rating: 7.5 out of 10.
TITLE:Čerň A Smrt
RELEASE DATE:August 13th, 2021
BUY & LISTEN:Bandcamp
GENRE(S):Black/Death Metal,
Dark Metal

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