True, dark spirituality is not often found within black metal. Sure, bands like to posture that they are Satanists while the vast majority of them probably don’t even know what that actually means. Basically, there’s a lot of iconography and symbolism in metal that isn’t fully backed up outside the confines of a few borrowed lines here and there. What’s missing, outside of intellectually curious and lyrically competent bands like Behemoth, is an understanding of the major monotheistic religions and how they relate to Satanism. Ideologically it’s a crucial connection as Satan, under the name and definition, are direct manifestations of monotheism, particularly Christianity. There are literally hundreds of infernal names and bands often invoke them but to know the true meaning and evolution behind those names is a rare, and tedious, feat. A feat that Gevurah has poured themselves into at a near PhD level.
While Madonna claims that Kaballah is a religion in its own right (it’s not), the Kaballah is merely one set of teachings popularized by 18th century Hasidic Jews (although compiled between the 12th, 13th and 16th centuries) who were essentially banished to Safed (or Tzefat) because of their “wild” belief system. So here’s where it starts to get thick, academically speaking.
Gevurah denotes the fifth sephirah in the kabbalistic tree of life (there are ten Sephirot in total) and correlates to the second day of creation. With each Sephirah denoting a particular aspect of spiritual life, Gevurah is the essence of both judgment and limitation, and corresponds to awe as well as the element of fire. Further, Gevurah is denoted on the left axis of the tree and is known as the ‘left arm” thus linking the name Gevurah to the left hand path of contemporary Satanism.
The band also references Da’at in their track “Lifting the Veils of Da’at.” This is significant. Da’at is the Sephirah that represents knowledge and is the point on the tree of life in which all ten Sephirot connect to become one—essentially creating the human soul as we know it. Mind sufficiently blown? Let’s take it further.
Gevurah is, ultimately, the power by which one can evoke Chesed (another of the Sephira representing kindness and also the right ‘Hand of God’ thus the right hand path). It is only through Chesed that one is able to actually penetrate the surface of reality and dig into the world of the divine. Thus, Gevurah is using their music to not only walk the left hand path and accept Satan as their true savior (and divine) but also to penetrate reality and gain spiritual levels not often contemplated by modern Satanists let alone black metal bands. So, how do they actually achieve this? Underneath all of the symbolism, iconography and the brilliant cover art of Denis Forkas are seven tracks (which are really eleven songs) that drag the listener through the veil of reality and deep into the world of spiritual discovery.
If there was ever a knock to be had on Gevurah it was that their prior work was slightly hardcore leaning. The crystal clear production and heavily solid-state sounding guitars combined with the toughness of the vocals detracted from the band’s overall thematic leanings. Gevurah is best as a spiritually assaultive band that rides underneath the pale. A band that gets past your ear canals and bores deep into the recesses of your brain. Taking their cues from Behemoth’s success on The Satanist that’s exactly what Gevurah accomplish on Hallelujah!.
Tracks like “Cosmic Putrefaction” are a perfect example of that sound. From the onset, the whispered, demonic vocals force the listener to lean closely in order to comprehend. So, when the drums blast forth and the vocals start to lacerate that listener is immediately struck with the urgency of Gevurah’s message proclaiming Jesus Christ to be a false prophet. The guitars’ supporting this message are not unlike the traditional sounds of black metal; single notes picked at a high rate of speed. But where Gevurah differs is in their ability to drop the bottom out like a trap door and slow to a crawl without losing any of the urgency or ferocity with which they began.
“Temple Without Form” is an example of a track that opens with fire essentially building on the transcendental beliefs of Hasidic thought. One does not need a place of worship if daily actions are in praise of God. Thus, being intoxicated, fornicating, causing violence and despair are all ways that one can praise Satan without the inconvenient necessity of leaving home. Musically, the track is relentless. When not spewing heathenistic poetry the vocals take on a near grunting style of moan beneath rolling double bass and contrasting guitar lines. It’s also the track on which the depth of the bass work becomes most apparent as the bass can be heard undistorted frolicking around the chord changes.
Not limited to an academic model of ancient Jewish beliefs, the standout track “Dies Irae – Lacrimosa,” named for a Latin Hymn composed in the 13th century likely by a friar of the Franciscan Order. The original lyrics to the hymn predict doom and death and request salvation and safety from Jesus. Not surprisingly, Gevurah have flipped the themes here to blame mankind for the downfall of humanity and request destruction from Satan himself. Musically, the track is essentially two songs. Essentially split into a five minute track, one minute interlude and four minute track, “Dies Irae – Lacrimosa” is a mammoth work. The first section is brutal and pulverising in its rhythmic ferocity. Firing all rockets behind a call and response guitar line, the track swirls into creation at maximum overdrive. Following the interlude, the band brings back the initial guitar chording pushing it into groove levels of repetition. The drums slam away sounding as though potentially made of goat skins weathered in the dry desert, the guitars continue to lead the way with slow crescendos and repetitive chromatic riffs.
The song is not only a standout for its themes and lyrics, but it is pathologically addictive and intoxicating in its musical valor. Just to jump back to the deepness here, “Lacrimosa” is the penultimate stanza in “Dies Irae” and literally discards the previous rhyming triplets in favor of a pair of rhyming couplets. Thus, the shift in rhythms is a nod to the pentameter of the hymn originally composed in Latin. Mindsplosion.
The final track (also the title track) is essentially three songs strung together in a glorious twenty minute outro that could easily have been an EP of its own. Most shocking is the full-on monk chanting that occurs around the thirteen minute mark and lasts for roughly three-and-a-half minutes solidifying the religious themes of the album. And the outro is potentially the most massive sounding four minutes of metal to come out in the last few years. With double bass rolling and cymbals crashing the guitars pick near phrygian levels of evil dissonance culminating in the ritually rhythmic end to the experience. It achieves Neurosis levels of repetitive droning (think “Stones from the Sky” off A Sun That Never Sets) that slowly builds to an explosive end.
There’s no question why Gevurah took three years to release a followup to their 2013 EP Necheshirion (which means ‘Serpents’ in Hebrew). With the thematic depth and musical underpinnings there’s no question that the duo took all three years to write, perfect and compose these seven tracks. It’s exciting to see a band so dedicated to its message and craft. A band so purely Satanic and fundamentally metal in their foundations that they put this much effort into the continuity and complex reality surrounding their art. Hallelujah! is not simply a fun idea or a fantastic sounding record, it’s an experience; crafted through the band’s personal, intellectual tedium. One to be appreciated with all ten Sephirot that may exist within your ethereal soul.