Behemoth
I Loved You at Your Darkest

Behemoth – noun: a huge or monstrous creature, something enormous; especially a big and powerful organization.  The definition of that word is also apt for the band Behemoth, who are arguably the best blackened death metal band on the planet.  Or one of the best metal bands period.  I can say for me personally, they’re my #3 all-time favorite metal band (behind Meshuggah and closely behind Ulcerate, if you were at all curious), so to say I’m excited when I see word of a new release of theirs would be a massive understatement.

It also means that for I, and many, many others, the bar to reach and the expectations for the top-tier bands (and our personal favorites) to fulfill can be almost unattainably high, and if they’re not perceived to have been met, a once-powerful band can find itself flirting with indifference at best, or irrelevancy at worst (just ask Cryptopsy and Morbid Angel and their legions of fans what kind of a roller coaster it’s been for their last few releases).  As recent listeners may or may not be aware, when Behemoth started waaaaaaayyyyyy back in 1992 they were much more of a raw, traditional black metal band.  But with 1998’s Pandemonic Incantations, they started to shift into their trademarked blackened death metal sound that we know today, with 1999’s Satanica rounding that sound much more into form and one that would continue on their next 6 LPs.

So here we are in 2018 with I Loved You at Your Darkest, the follow up to 2014’s phenomenal album The Satanist.  During that time front man Nergal has bounced back completely from his 2010 leukemia diagnosis, one that damn near sent him to meet his best bro Satan.  He has the usual suspects he’s had with him since 2004’s Demigod: Inferno on drums and Orion on bass and backing vocals, so long time fans have a good idea what to expect.

But from the start it was clear this one wasn’t going to be a carbon copy of the previous ones.  The first run through this album, I came away feeling this one is just missing that “it” factor, that face-melting, brain-searing intensity that Behemoth brings as good as anyone in the business.  However, after a few listens this one started to show its layers.

It starts out with “Solve”, an oddly unsettling chant performed by children chanting about Jesus Christ, and “I will not forgive”, before we get an instrumental that kicks in about halfway through.  It’s the next track, “Wolves ov Siberia”, which gave the immediate disappointing feeling of “meh”.  Or even more so that this might just be a paint by numbers, mailed-in release.  “God = Dog” starts out with a slower melodic riff, with Nergal’s trademark yell seeming to have a bit more punch to it than “Wolves”.  This track also utilizes more of the aforementioned children’s choir.

But the track that REALLY stood out as the best one on the album was number five’s “Bartzabel”.  This one also begins with a slower melodic riff, before a thunderous drum beat makes its presence felt and adds to the ambience.  The vocals don’t start until about 1.5 minutes in, with Nergal’s vocals backed by an almost hypnotic chanting of “Come to me Bartzabeeeeelllllll” (though not done by the children this time).  It’s a moving, haunting artistic choice that really stuck with me and shows the band branching out a bit to great effect.  (Quick side note: if you don’t know what/who Bartzabel is (and are forgiven for thinking it was the 82nd random name for Satan you might not have heard of, as I did) it’s actually the spirit of the planet Mars).

“If Crucifixion Was Not Enough” is another mid-paced track, followed by “Angelvs XIII” which is more of the Behemoth blasting you’re used to, closing out with a nice guitar solo.  “Sabbath Mater” and “Havohej Pantocrator” dial back the intensity a bit, before the nice catchy groove found on the next best track on the album, “Rom 5:8”.  “We are the Next 1000 Years” is a pleasant little tempo-change heavy track, before the whole show is brought to a close with the two minute instrumental “Coagvla”.

After multiple listens, I still feel that overall this is a hard one to pin down, and personally I’m still torn.  On one hand there are some refreshing stylistic choices on display, while on the other hand it also comes across as a band trying to decide where it wants to go; sometimes it seems to work, other times it just doesn’t click.  Another big criticism is I feel that as one of the best drummers on the planet, Inferno was criminally under-utilized here, which was quite disappointing.  He’s solid as usual and maybe this was due to the overall slower pace or more melodic leanings of the whole album, but it also sounds like 20 other drummers could have stood in for him and nobody would have known the difference (and I can’t say that about any other Behemoth album).

Will this be the first Behemoth album in nearly 20 years that I don’t buy, or will this one be a grower that continues to bloom with multiple listens?  Is this a band at the proverbial crossroads in their long and celebrated career?  I’m not really sure, and I’d honestly be curious to see what other fans have to say about this one and how it’s received. 

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Kevin E
October 29th, 2018

Comments

  1. Commented by: faust

    “It also means that for I, and many, many others, the bar to reach…”

    Ouch.

    Gotta read up on the use of subjective vs. objective personal pronouns, Kev. Gotta start using “me” more.

    This album is bordering on being blasphemously bad. Behemoth needs to stop overdoing the Satan-rock shtick, and get back to being a blackened death band. Right now, even Ghost seems to have more authenticity than Nergal & Co.

    Thanks for the review.


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