Review Summary: The Behemoth returns more "blackened" than ever
Little needs to be said at this point about Behemoth frontman Adam “Nergal” Darski’s struggles with leukemia which led to such a lengthy delay between 2009’s Evangelion and 2014’s The Satanist. All that’s necessary to say is, “Nergal, welcome back.” Everything is just as you left it; not a single pentagram left without a severed goat’s head attached, nor a cross not properly inverted. And with the return of such a notorious, controversial, and brutally heavy band, we’re offered a noticeable stylistic shift from previous releases. This time, Behemoth roll back on the death metal and add in some old, fermented black metal ingredients into their metallic recipe for heavy, savory sonic satisfaction.
This isn’t to say that Behemoth ever abandoned black metal completely. Records such as Demigod and The Apostasy had a mild black metal flavor permeating throughout, but the guttural growls and crunchy down-tuned guitars were way more reminiscent of Cannibal Corpse than Carpathian Forest. Often called a “blackened death metal” band (which is accurate enough) Behemoth lean more toward the “blackened” side of their sound on The Satanist than they have in a very long while. Bright, high-pitched tremolo picking and arpeggiated chords ring out furiously over tight, focused blast beats, and the production on this album brings even more of a black metal element into the mix. The Satanist benefits from a raw, scorching sound with maybe only a touch of reverb thrown in at the most. While certainly sounding much better than a Xasthur album, behemoth worked with their producers to perfect a bare-bones, yet totally articulate and clear-sounding record that successfully places the listener directly into a dark and frightening atmosphere.
At only 44 minutes, The Satanist is a concise, satisfying onslaught of barbarian metal that’s devoid of any “outliers” that take away from the album’s effectiveness or compromise its concentrated attack on this listener. It simply never wears thin, and things are kept interesting during its runtime with the addition of horn arrangements on several tracks, as well as guitar solos with a (gasp!) rock ‘n’ roll edge to them that helps to break up the unrelenting density of the band’s sound. Instrumentally, Inferno’s drumming is incredible as always and he pulls out some tight, tasteful fills to properly garnish these songs while Nergal and Seth’s guitar work adequately deliver searing black metal riffs and leads. Behemoth seems to have matched, if not, surpassed their best works.
Aside from the occasional horns, The Satanist is not a necessarily “progressive” black metal record in comparison to recent albums by bands such as Altar of Plagues, but Behemoth’s ability to craft such a potent assault of meat-and-potatoes metal shows how a band does not necessarily have to reinvent the proverbial wheel to make a worthwhile collection of tracks, and The Satanist is indeed a worthwhile collection of tracks if there ever was one. The album’s rough and dry production coupled with blood-boiling intensity and memorable tunes helps define The Satanist as one hell of a comeback, and as a literal return from near-death, this is what fans have been hungering for for six years. Again, Nergal, welcome back.