Review Summary: Behemoth ov old and new
There seem to be two voices within The Satanist
. Aside from the aspects that at this point can be labeled as “typical Behemoth”, there is another side that is not so content with following that path. It’s been a while since Behemoth sounded fresh; sounded like they really had some creative fire burning in the hearts. The Satanist
is a partial manifestation of this drive to expel their signature sound which – let’s be honest here – is getting quite stale. The regurgitation of Behemoth’s music has been in full effect for several albums now, with each one becoming a better and better impression of the last. In a way, that’s the best point to make regarding Behemoth’s sound before The Satanist
: each album was an attempt to imitate its immediate predecessor in a bigger and grander way. Things got more complex, yet at the same time got more predictable. The trials ov Behemoth were becoming taxing, it seemed, because behind the aggression and complexity was an idea that was slowly losing itself.
is an awakening, but not a complete conversion to a new sound. The record is wholeheartedly rooted in the style established on Demigod
or The Apostasy
, but it shows a deliberateness that those records didn’t have the patience to achieve. Behemoth take the time to craft a distinct mood and carry it throughout the entire record, rather than pummeling the listener for a while before suddenly attempting to care about atmosphere with an 8-minute epic that has absolutely no context. The chaos rooted in tracks like “Furor Divinus” or “Amen” is a direct descendant of Behemoth’s signature style, but that is only a very small part of what makes The Satanist
perhaps the most enjoyable Behemoth LP ever. There is a sense of artistic flair introduced here that makes things slow down and retreat from relying solely on unabated heaviness to drive the record forward. It is proficient in establishing mood and then evolving it as the record progresses, because while the first few tracks may seem a bit dull and directionless, over time things focus to a single, sharp point. Before long, the line between aggression and artistry becomes blurred, and it is then that The Satanist
Not only do the tempo shifts play off each other in near-perfect fashion, they help to introduce quite a distinct sense of variety for a band that so desperately needed it. The orchestras provide subtle opposition to crashing drums and deep, bellowing screams, while acoustic guitars accent their electric brethren with mellow, flowing undertones that give the sound a complexity unlike any other Behemoth record to date. Granted, there are more than enough moments when the songwriting is not quite this bold, and that proves to be the Achilles heel of The Satanist
. So, it is no small wonder that the worst moments on the album come from Behemoth sounding like, well, classic Behemoth. “Blow Your Trumpets Gabriel” is far too centered on showcasing Nergal’s powerful vocals - which are without question his best in many, many years – to conjure something noteworthy from the instruments, and “Messe Noire” is so lifeless in its spinning riffing and ceaseless screams that it would be a complete waste of time without the exceptional guitar solo that closes the track.
The fact that Behemoth have realized that they can retain a large part of their brutality while introducing real, tangible atmosphere is the saving grace of The Satanist
. The latter half of the album, especially, embodies this, with the title track’s vocal melodies driving the mid-tempo riffing forth through a wonderful guitar solo and the epic closer "O Father O Satan O Sun!" containing a sampling of the entire record wrapped into one brilliant piece. It’s a drive toward creating melody that brings about the most success – yet also the most change – on the record, but without the numerous melodic hooks the album simply would not be the same. It’s not just the guitars that create this melody either despite their numerous and always impressive solos littering the album's soundscape. Instead, each and every instrument strives to be as memorable as possible, with the bass sometimes rising up to pique your ear or the drums breaking into a fill or grinding away through a plodding riff like the one that permeates “Ben Sahar”. Even the vocals find time to carry melody, like in the aforementioned title track. Not only does this hint at the massive amount of care put into the songwriting, it helps bring an album together even when there are several tracks that don’t pull nearly as much weight.
Thankfully, then, The Satanist
contains more of these heavy-hitters than it does filler. It’s far from a perfect album – the second half is much stronger and more cohesive than the first half, which contains a lot of dull moments. As a recovery album, a transitional album, an album where Behemoth needed to get on their feet after five years off, it is exactly what was needed. The musical variance is enough to warrant the price of admission, and while The Satanist
is far from esoteric, the album still oozes the vulgarity of their style and retains that bit of showmanship in appearance that Behemoth have always had. At the end of the day, there is little doubt that listeners will enjoy The Satanist
, because it provides in copious quantities what has made Behemoth a staple in the extreme metal community for over twenty years, while keeping their shortcomings to a minimum. It does not snuff out all of the faults, but allows us to gloss over most of them as Behemoth spew out perhaps their most glorious display ov blasphemy yet.