Review Summary: Never before has a band’s name become more applicable to what it has become in the metal scene.
It appears that Behemoth has split much of the metal community into two camps; the first, who respect the group as excellent musicians and the second, who can’t seem to get over the fact that Behemoth spells “of” as “ov.” In any case, I was ecstatic when I received a copy of the album back in August 2009. In my experience with the band, Behemoth has released quality release after quality release, so I had high expectations - thankfully, they were well met in Behemoth’s most atmospheric and instrumentally tightest album yet.
Vocalist and guitarist Nergal always seems to have something to say about his bizarre and otherworldly philosophy as well as some pagan and satanic history. His research into these subjects is evident in the album’s booklet, where he explains all his reasoning and inspirations behind each song (one must not forget when he thanked himself in “Demigod’s” acknowledgments section). Still, one must wonder when he’ll run out of the shocking, pagan lyrics… although the same could be asked of Karl Sanders of Nile. But I digress.
Perhaps the greatest difference in this release compared to all the others is its mood. While albums like “Demigod” and “Zos Kia Cultus” certainty had the brutality with Nergal’s wraith-like vocals and Inferno’s incessant drumming, “Evangelion” is swollen with an omnipresent sense of unadulterated evil. In songs such as “Lucifer” and “Alas, Lord is Upon Me,” hardly any blast beats are present, and it is refreshing to hear Inferno perform complex fills absent of the machine gun-esque “ratatats” which seem ubiquitous in previous albums (admittedly in many of the songs on “Evangelion” as well). He slows the pace of the songs, allowing the listener to become victim of an aural assault of thudding toms and crashing splash cymbals. More samples are heard as well - “Daimonos” begins with the sound of crying children and screaming women, and the presence of choirs and background ambience is scattered throughout the record. Aimless guitar tones and wandering scales add to an overall sound of misery and horror. Throw in the usual bombastic guitar solos, and you’ve got yourself one scary-ass album.
Another impressive aspect of “Evangelion” was the band’s ability to produce progression through regression. All listeners know of Behemoth’s black metal roots, and this album sounds more blackened relative to “Demigod” and “The Apostasy,” mostly due to the aforementioned uptake of atmosphere. However, this is by no means negative. It turns out this new mix of extra-blackened death metal also makes for a “fuller” sound, and the production drops some of the emphasis on the crushing drums and focuses it on Nergal’s much-improved vocals and less one-dimensional guitar riffs. The production also finds itself in a happy medium between the extremely polished sound of “Demigod” and the odd muddiness of “The Apostasy.”
The question remains: are the changes heard in “Evangelion” enough to sway Behemoth-haters" Probably not. Despite the more varied tempo and higher emphasis on atmosphere, this is still undoubtedly a Behemoth album, just as a Dimmu Borgir album is a Dimmu Borgir album and a Lamb of God album is distinctly a Lamb of God album. Unless Behemoth changes everything about itself, critics will continue to dislike the band.
In summation, Behemoth combined more black metal elements to their already potent mixture of blackened death to make the most powerful album of 2009. The band meshes brutality and evil atmosphere to truly form the embodiment of strength.