It’s been an eventful five years for Polish blackened death metallers Behemoth. It began with ‘Evangelion‘, which, after years of building their way up the ranks in terms of the wider extreme metal scene, marked their further emergence onto the world stage, building upon the status they had already achieved. Led by its lead single, the thoroughly dark and crushing ‘Ov Fire and The Void’, Behemoth, at the time, seemed unstoppable. Then their founding member, vocalist Adam ‘Nergal’ Darski, was rushed to hospital with leukaemia in 2010, subjected in the metal media to a frenzy stating that at first, it was too advanced, and then it wasn’t. In any event, he was eventually released after having a bone marrow transplant early in 2011, and following this he was even threatened with prison over tearing up a Bible on stage. The dust finally settled back down, and the band entered into the recording the now arrived album, ‘The Satanist’, coming five years after ‘Evangelion’, recorded in roughly half of that time space.
Despite it being the longest gap between albums in their history, it’s clear time has not mellowed Behemoth in any way, but ‘The Satanist‘ is certainly a slightly different beast to the one that rose to the head of extreme metal. The tone is certainly set from the off with ‘Blow Your Trumpets Gabriel’, a song that for me seems a strange choice of single for the band to lead from – it doesn’t really grab at you like Behemoth usually do and instead it follows a path of intrigue, with a meaty slow riff that takes its time to build, eventually exploding into life towards the end, but in a way that doesn’t feel as though it befits the intro. Maybe it’s just me – it feels a bit of a grower but I’m still not sure about where it fits in. But that’s track one, and regardless of the menace and regality of the album’s beginning, the blood and thunder approach we normally expect from the band returns over the course of the next few tracks, really picking up by the time ‘Ora Pro Nobis Lucifer’ comes around – a galloping monolith of pounding drums, unerring riffery, and appropriate guttural sermons, though not before ‘Messe Noire’ ends with a whopping big guitar solo that again doesn’t seem like the Gdansk extremists, yet within the context of this album, but with repeated listening feels right at home and is one of the most affirmative points on the album.
Behemoth – Ora Pro Nubis Lucifer (official lyric video)
As it progresses, it becomes clear that Behemoth’s rise to the edge of the metal mainstream is possibly shaping their sound. ‘In The Absence Ov Light’ features a spoken word passage taken from ‘The Marriage’, sandwiched by some of the best riffing on the album, while the title track, and the amazing closer ‘O Father O Satan O Sun!’, utilise slower riffs and cold ambience to further increase the atmosphere. Sure there will be those who cry foul at this, but the band loses none of their depth, their power, nor their aesthetic in these moments. They are broadening their scope, making a case for domination. It’s Behemoth on a grander scale, bringing forth their vision with far more imagination than most metal bands can dream of. Put simply, they’re back, with as powerful a statement of intent as you could ever expect.