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Bethlehem is a tortured, brooding soul surrounded by an aura of depression and suicide. The band was gestated in Germany, the stillborn brain child of founding member and bassist Bartsch. Almost upon conception, Bethlehem has been hounded by controversy and despair. This fact is not only painfully obvious in their sound but also throughout the lives of the individual band members. The new release, Dictius Te Necare, on America's chthonian label Red Stream, is an opus of diseased hopelessness. Bartsch delves into the darkest aspects of the new album as well as the events that have billowed from the black cloud of Bethlehem for the first time. "Dictius Te Necare is a mirror that reflects things that happened to me in my youth. Suicide and death are my brother and sister, my father and mother, my daughter and my son. And I really don't know why."

"Since an early age, I have always dreamed of death. Sometimes the dreams are of my own death, sometimes folks I know, sometimes people I have never met. Eight years ago, I came home to find my girlfriend strangled with a clothes line. She had hung herself. Her tongue was hanging blue out of her mouth. She was dead and the only thing I could do was cut her down and wait for the cops. Another night, a good friend of mine decided that he wanted to try heroin. We had a good time by sniffing and smoking some of it. After a while, I fell asleep. When I awoke, the room was full of cops. My friend was dead from an overdose for he had decided to use a needle while I slept. His face looked horrible- the face of someone who had been terrified of the approach of death. I often meet his face in my dreams."

Bartsch continues as if suicide was an everyday occurrence for us all. "Another night, in a pub a dude fell in my arms and died from acid. It was utterly disturbing to see someone die with white spume on his face. Other friends began to follow and I decided to leave this suicide scene for I wanted to survive. Shortly after this, my aunt committed suicide by hanging herself. I began to think that everything was happening again and I had a nervous breakdown. My nightmares became worse and I felt that I was going to be buried alive with death. The only way to be rid of these feelings was to form a band and channel away the negativity with music."

"In 1990, I met Matton whose father committed suicide when he was a young boy. His mother died of cancer shortly after this. In '91, I joined Matton's band, Dark Tempest. We played a style of music that was a mixture of black, thrash, and old heavy metal. We soon decided that we would like to create a band that dealt more with suicide and death. For us darkness meant death; definitely not occultism.

Thus Bethlehem was born in September of 1991. Our first songs were absolutely dark and negative. We thought the phrase "Dark Metal" fit the description of our music. A French underground label released our first album in '94 called Dark Metal. This album represented all the feelings that had been buried deep inside of us. The final outcome was not exactly what we wanted so we decided the next release had to have deeper poems - a liquidation of our youth which was so much designed by death. Bethlehem has always been a private band so our feelings are hidden within the music. I am sure a lot of people will misunderstand the new album and take it as an order to kill oneself. That is not it at all."

The death of Bartsch's girlfriend and the events surrounding her suicide have deeply effected him. "My girlfriend was into the occult and Aleister Crowley. I think this was part of the reason that she committed suicide. She was involved in a religious sect that was completely negative. They really rejected life and were completely misanthropic. She used to read the tarot cards. These cards always told her that one day she would end her life. I don't believe in these things but she did. I am a complete atheist. I believe in reality. Things I can see, smell, and hear. I am a twentieth century boy. I have no explanation for why all of these horrible things have happened to me."

To make matters worse, there is a law in Germany prohibiting the glorification of violence. Bartsch says "This is the main problem we have had with authorities. It is so loosely written that they can apply it to almost anything. In Germany, It is really taboo to promote suicide and violence. Last year, my flat was raided. Because of all the magazines, fanzines, and posters that were in my flat, the police tried to tell me that I was some sort of organized terrorist. As if I had a goal to influence people to commit suicide. This all started with the release of the 333 copies of our first demo. A kid's mother called me and said that since her fourteen year old son had started listening to our music he had completely changed. He had become viscous and more violent. This eventually ended but it all began again with the release of our first album. This has led to more interrogations by the police and promoters canceling our gigs. The last raid on my home was only a few months ago in which the rough designs of Dictius Te Necare were confiscated. We are an underground band and have little money to fight such things. I do not even think about what is going to happen now that the new album is available."


Article by Chad Hensley, Published in Terrorizer Magazine (UK).