Review Summary: "Whether a direct result of Nergal’s brush with Hell or not, Behemoth appear rejuvenated, once again intent on pushing the envelope with regards to their sound."
Having almost totally erased the black metal elements that distinguished them from their contemporaries, Behemoth’s sound was slowly but surely becoming ever more stagnant, bordering on self-parody at times. Though Evangelion
proved to be one of their strongest releases in a while, the band’s perennial approach to it left it feeling underwhelming in spite of its quality. Much like melodeath giants Amon Amarth, Behemoth seemed doomed to repeat themselves for eternity, that is until the band appeared to have an epiphany. While it’s a cliché to call attention to Nergal’s battle with Leukaemia, it has to be done. Imagine for a second that you’re lying in a hospital ward, poison slowly trickling into your veins, your body’s natural defences eroding away as a foreign substance combats a neoplasm doing its utmost to take your life. It’s difficult to think of a being in a more passive state, nor a more contemplative one. No doubt many things went through Nergal’s mind while at the mercy of his ailment, not least of which his desire to continue making music, his time of reflection serving as fresh inspiration.
With regards to Nergal’s intrepid recovery, perhaps it’s no coincidence that The Satanist
is Behemoth’s best album in well over a decade. Through a touch of stylistic regression, reintroducing the black metal elements and placing a far greater focus on song progression, The Satanist
is a surprisingly varied and nuanced affair. The first thing you will notice is that the sound engineering is far more dynamic and balanced than before, the guitars and drums sounding more organic while the bass work is not only audible, but omnipresent. Nergal delivers arguably his best vocal performance ever, the abhorrent layering of Demigod
now a distant memory, replaced by tenacious growling and intermittent but poignant spoken word. The instrumentation as a whole is less aggressive than in previous albums, the guitars often delving into slower, melodic riffs that build upon themselves as time passes. This isn’t to say Behemoth have forsaken their sense of aggression, tracks like “Furor Divinus”, “Messe Noir” and “In The Absence ov Light” are all exercises in brutality, the former of which being the most obvious throwback to the band’s original black metal style.
The stylistic shifts in and between each track allow for ample breathing space, and as a result the album’s appeal rarely falters from start to finish. There are a few weaker cuts obviously, the title track relying far too much on basic chord progressions and vocal hooks to remain interesting over its five and a half minute duration, for example. But the biggest blemish on this otherwise spotless canvas is the opener, the main riff of which more than overstaying it’s welcome before the bombastic orchestral section kills what little momentum the track gained in the first half. But despite the weak opener, the album picks up the pieces quickly. The aforementioned orchestral elements are present throughout a large portion of the album, most apparent in tracks such as “Amen”, “Ben Sahar” and the closer “O Father O Satan O Sun!” The manner in which these grandiose accents are utilised is commendable, lingering in the background as a support mechanism for the instruments and rarely coming across as disorganized or overbearing. This coupled with the increased melodicism in comparison to previous releases gives the The Satanist
intangible warmth, making it not only one of the finest albums but also their most accessible by a convincing margin.
is a breath of fresh air for Behemoth, a welcomed shift in style that heralds a brighter future for the band. While hardcore fans may not welcome the more melodic and dynamic direction, it does open the door to a new audience, and may well bring back some listeners who believed the band were destined for mediocrity. Whether a direct result of Nergal’s brush with Hell or not, Behemoth appear rejuvenated, once again intent on pushing the envelope with regards to their sound. Though not perfect, The Satanist
is an excellent album in its own right, and Behemoth’s finest exhibition in a long, long time.