Bohemyst - Čerň a Smrt (Album Review)

Aug. 13, 2021


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While Czech metal tends to fly under a lot of people’s radars in North America, Avenger always seemed to get even less exposure even for those that were aware of bands from the country.  My first exposure came courtesy of 2012’s Bohemian Dark Metal, which I found to be a great balance of black and death metal.  2017 would mark significant changes for the band, as not only did they have some lineup changes that resulted in a different sounding album (Mir v haremu smrti), but they decided shortly after release that it would be time to retire the Avenger name after twenty-five years.  Bohemyst was quickly chosen as their new band name, and after several years we now get the first taste of what this rebranded group is capable of.  Čerň a Smrt retains that same balance between black and death metal but there’s a great emphasis on sweeping orchestrations and a grandiose atmosphere that justifies the switch in names.

Since all of Bohemyst’s members were present on Mir v haremu smrti and two of them helped to found Avenger in the 90s, it makes sense that Čerň a Smrt still retains a lot of the elements that made that band stand out.  There’s still a pretty even split between black and death metal, with the type of dark yet soaring melodies that bring in black metal and that weight and crunchier tone that channels death metal.  Bohemyst is also still using the “Bohemian dark metal tagline”, and the way that their mid-tempo sections have a variety of rhythmic approaches and some almost folk sounding grooves at times does this description justice and continues to demonstrate why a lot of Czech and other Eastern European countries stand out.  The biggest difference between past material is how prominent the orchestration and samples are, as while this was used here and there on Avenger’s albums here the orchestral elements are a core component of the songwriting.  Heavy and dense blasting often gives way to booming orchestras and other instrumentation that borders on symphonic black metal without being cheesy, and it gives a very cinematic and grand scale to the songs.  Čerň a Smrt starts off with a bang too, as the first half is filled with pummeling riffs, dark and majestic melodies, and some unexpected grooves that will stick with you.  It doesn’t quite stick the landing though, as the last few tracks start to repeat the patterns heard earlier on and causes them to blur together a bit. 

The vocal work is a highlight throughout Čerň a Smrt, as it captures a wide range of high screams and low growls.  Like the instrumentation, it’s able to channel both black and death metal depending on what particular section you’re listening to, and the back and forth between the pitches keeps things unpredictable.  Songs like “Paní lesa” showcase this variety perfectly, starting off with high pitched, raspy shrieks that are very close to a lot of 90s black metal before transitioning to some guttural death metal growls a little ways in.  The vocals are also well balanced with the orchestration, coming in slightly louder than them in the mix which makes each scream and growl sound appropriately huge.

Bohemyst reaches some stunning levels of dark atmosphere and crushing intensity, and the focus on orchestration and fuller, almost cinematic approach to black and death metal justifies the name change.  While the last few songs don’t quite reach the same heights as some of the earlier ones, this is still a consistently engaging listen that showcases why Czech bands like this are just as strong as those from the Scandinavian countries.  I’m excited to see where their ideas transform and diverge further from Avenger in the coming years, and considering this album was originally due out a year or two ago we may hear more in the not-so-distant future.  Čerň a Smrt is available from Petrichor.

-Review by Chris Dahlberg

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