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First Spell (1994)

Gehenna's initial offering, First Spell, was released in 1994 on Head Not Found Records. This Norwegian band labeled their music 'ghost metal', rather than black metal, and such a term actually fits the music rather accurately, despite how ridiculous it is that bands were constantly adopting such terms, around that time.

"The Shivering Voice of the Ghost" is the best song on here, perhaps, beginning with a funeral organ and setting a morbid tone. The synth really seems to play a significant role on this album, though it is done in such a way that it is not really an annoyance. In reality, it is quite necessary for the atmosphere of the record, which is a fault in the songwriting, but the result is so unique that Gehenna receives a pass, this time around. The music is mid-paced and the riffs and drums play a secondary role, more or less, but everything works together in creating a gloomy and haunting feeling.

The next song, "Unearthly Loose Palace", starts out with a miserable melody that is actually quite depressing. Again, the synth and guitars are about equal, perhaps with the latter one step beneath in terms of importance. This song also utilizes bits of acoustic guitar that help in the development of the sombre and epic tone of the piece. The mournful lead solo, near the middle, perfectly accentuates the slowed pace and is very memorable in its own right. Another tempo change introduces another solo, though this one possesses an spectral quality that is difficult to describe.

"Angelwings and Ravenclaws" is a little faster, and the synth is more annoying, here. At first, it sounds like a phone ringing, and then it transitions to something that bears an oriental vibe. That is the last thing that anyone wants to hear from a Norwegian black metal band, and such experimentation has no place in this music.

The morbid gloom returns with "Conquering of Hirsir", though the synth interrupts this and almost attempts to establish a more upbeat feeling, at certain points. It is not a good sign for the band that they are not able to maintain a decent level of consistency for more than two songs. This song demonstrates limited potential, but it is destroyed by poor choices of keyboard melodies.

"Morningstar" begins with the sound of a storm, with grim vocals summoning dark spirits. The atmosphere is more epic than in previous songs, with the vocal patterns following the main melody for the most part. Ominous synth passages enable the song to keep a dark feeling, though it must be said that this should be achieved through the guitar riffs moreso than anything else. The song offers a bit of variation, though cycles through the same ideas and fails to really build in a way that lives up to its potential.

First Spell is the only Gehenna release that is enjoyable in the slightest bit, and only three of the songs are worth listening to. Of those three, none fully realize the level of quality that they may have been capable of, but they are still worth listening to just for something a little different. Far too much emphasis is placed on the synth, limiting the band's ability to break free of these amateurish melodies and to create something truly special. In the end, this release is inconsistent and average at best. Give it a listen, but do not go to much trouble to do so.
(12 Oct. 2011)

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