Behemoth
The Satanist

The Satanist is a tale of redemption, of perseverance.  Not solely for Nergal and Behemoth, but for this author as well.  I’ll go ahead and get the fact that I’ve been an absolute unflinching Behemoth fanboy for well over a decade now.  I love everything, the early black metal days, the masterfully blackened Grom, the unstoppably ferocious Satanica, and even the polarizing yet viciously technical and speedy modern albums.  They can do no wrong for me.  Redemption comes for Behemoth because after a few years of mixed reviews from long-time fans, here they have returned triumphant and vitriolic.  Redemption bloomed for me because this was the first Behemoth album I didn’t immediately connect with.  It’s albums like this that make really digesting a record such a rewarding and cathartic experience.

Anyone unfamiliar with the legacy Behemoth have blazed, but have maybe discovered them between let’s say The Apostasy and now would likely find themselves wondering what happened to the brutally fast, relentless grinding death metal band.  But Behemoth wear many masks and it seems they’ve removed them once again to expose the scars of hated beneath.  Every Behemoth record is a uniquely and singularly dark experience.  In a genre full of copycatting and riff rehashing, Behemoth simply stands above the fray with their inimitable voice.  There is no question who you are listening to when any of their albums are playing.  That is one of the driving directives in their position on my ‘favorite bands’ list.

When I am anticipating an album, I almost never watch the teasers.  I almost never listen to the ‘singles.’  It simply doesn’t offer a full enough view of the artist’s intentions to satisfy me.  I broke my typical vow of self-imposed hushed anticipation for The Satanist as I was just too excited for what Nergal was going to come up with so shortly after lying in his death bed.  I was unimpressed unfortunately and it left me scared.  The plodding nature of “Blow Your Trumpets Gabriel” and the blackened punk aesthetics of “Ora Pro Nobis Lucifer” were not what I was expecting, and out of context I found myself wanting.  I’ve since come around on both.

So here we stand 23 years after Nergal formed Behemoth, and in 2014 they have the vigor of the kids they used to be, but with the compositional fortitude of a band two decades into a successful career.  It is refreshing to see that they are not afraid to alter their sound or revisit territory they have once tread, only this time to utterly conquer it.  Listen to the vocals, Nergal hasn’t sounded this fresh and unprocessed for nigh on a decade.  His venom is straight out of Satanica and it is beyond successful.  The absolutely massive presence of the growling bass leaves devastation in its wake.  The always immaculate drumming has found a perfect nest in the mix, never overpowering but central to the nuance continually present.  The production is unconditionally perfect, everything in its place, and destructively so.

The aforementioned opener “Blow Your Trumpets Gabriel” initially puzzled me, but in the context of the album, I’ve come to thoroughly love it.  It in itself is a microcosm of the album as a whole.  The plodding yet catchy nature of the main riff and as the song comes to a close, one of the most triumphant moments on ANY Behemoth album.  THOSE HORNS!  Satan’s glory be to those musicians who so flawlessly executed the auxiliary touches to raise what is a good riff into a flash of brilliance and conquest.  From there “Furor Divinus” and “Messe Noire” are just unbelievably aggressive masses of the Behemoth everyone knows.  Nothing new, but certainly not old.  “Ora Pro Nobis Lucifer” (Pray For Us Lucifer) is where The Satanist begins to rear its head.  Something unlike songs past slithers its way to the surface here.  A furious, thrashy number that works simply because of the anger behind it, and the fact that it is sandwiched between two filthy blasting assaults.  Yet another unique moment in their lexicon comes with the title track.  The majority of it reminds me of a goth-y synth addled death rock band, and is one of the few moments I’ve ever questioned the band on.  However, come nearer the end of the song, the nonsense stops and a massive chunky riff morphs into a grinding and rewarding chaos.  More of that renewed fury drills into the listener with “Ben Sahar” and “In The Absence Ov Light” where one finds Behemoth shedding the confines of the sound barrier and blasting through a monstrous 10 minutes.  We then come to the end.

“O Father O Satan O Sun!” is worthy of a paragraph of its own.  Another questionable choice for a main riff, this feels like Behemoth’s attempt at their very own “Kashmir.”  It isn’t bad, but it’s odd for them.  Momentary flashes of speed and a massive roaring solo hold my ear for the duration until the most unexpected moment on the record.  An incredibly gripping and emotional riff absolutely soars in and continues through the end, the spoken work bleeds sincerity and you know unquestionably that Nergal puts every ounce of his being into attempting to express what he feels.  The effort he puts into his lyrics, inspiration, and explanations are admirably and unfathomable.  His work means everything to him, another reason they’ve been atop my pantheon of favorites for many a year.

Personal bias aside (as much as possible anyways), The Satanist is an unexpected work of brilliance.  I simply did not assume to find this much pleasure here.  A masterful revisitation and evolution of the band, full of bile and contempt.  One of Behemoth’s defining moments has come and gone, and after a time where fans were not even sure if there might ever be another.  I’m thrilled to be here for this triumph.  THIS is what all of us should set out to review albums for.  The opportunity to fully digest and analyze an album that didn’t quite strike you at first, but when absorbed leaves you breathless and proud.  Find this moment here all, for Behemoth has returned from the precipice, possibly stronger than ever.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Nick E
February 17th, 2014

Comments

  1. Commented by: RichF

    It certainly seems like I will come to consider this one of their best albums. I just wish Nergal would get better mastering for his albums. This isn’t the brickwalled atrocity that the previous two were, but it’s still not great.


  2. Commented by: Luke_22

    I’ve always found Behemoth a bit overrated, despite enjoying a handful of their albums, but this one has hit hard with me. The songwriting is far more dynamic and inspired this time round,and it’s a far better production job than recent releases. Great album overall.


  3. Commented by: E. Thomas

    except for the horns/trumpet parts i could not get into this at all. Nergal is trying to hard. yeah its not as layered or processed as the last two, which were average, but the songs just aren’t doing anything for me


  4. Commented by: vugelnox

    I agree with Erik. They made some substantial improvements in atmosphere, production and not sounding like Nile but the songs themselves… in one ear and out the other.


  5. Commented by: Staylow

    I’ve never gotten the hype about this band. Zos Kia Cultus is a pretty damned good album, but everything after it has bored me to tears. I admit, I haven’t heard anything prior to ZKC, so maybe I should check that stuff out before I say they’re overrated. Still though, it seems like everyone swings from this bands sack any time they release anything, regardless of it’s quality.


  6. Commented by: Dave

    @E. Thomas – The trumpet parts are probably the one thing I dislike about this album. I’ve always thought the trumpet was way too bright sounding an instrument to be used on a metal album, and “The Satanist” is no exception. Fortunately they aren’t used much but they do distract me a bit when they are.


  7. Commented by: jesusgodallah

    Can behemoth maybe try something new? Theyve bored me to death for years now…


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