Review Summary: I Loved You at Your Most By-the-Numbers
As it happens, metal (and especially its blackened incarnation) has always been music of the blasphemes, heathens and Satanists. Upon its inception, it was essentially a collision of logical continuation of already existing genres of metal, but into much harsher and dissonant directions, as well as reaction to the state of the world at large. It was a swarm of – among others – church hating, overly energetic youngsters that have found the rupturing and diabolical sounds of black and death metal a perfect counterweight to the overly unostentatious, sterile and unvaried world of religion and its many moral restrictions. It was a wave of anger, frustration and adrenaline-led creativity; anything but a spawn for the faint at heart and nothing for the main streams of musical production.
At this point, Behemoth may have become both an antidote (or rather a polar opposite niche copy) of the Christian rock and metal, and everything black metal was not at the beginning. The bashing of Christianity and twisting its mythology around has become their prime identity, while hunger for rawness as the main driving force has been pushed aside. It is now tailored and professionally crafted. And while the fact that blasphemy has always been part of the genre’s core values, it may be perceived as forgivable (unlike some Adonai and such, ugh), it all feels like an appeal to as many people as possible, no longer a push of will, but an unostentatious, sterile and unvaried professionalism.
But here’s the crack, though: because Nergal and the gang are professional musicians and musical mathematicians capable of calculating a perfect metal tune, this still sounds fantastic. You know they don’t actually care about the concept and neither do they use it as a gimmick, but rather do it just because that’s what they’ve always been doing. They’re masters of their craft. You give them script and they’ll build you a picture for all ages. Who cares that no semblance of soul went into dreaming up the concept, lyrics or themes? It is instrumentally impeccable and instantly memorable.
And that’s really it. This album is a thematically unadventurous, but musically pulsating chef-d'œuvre. It fuses a myriad of various black and death metal tropes and it flows in them so freely that you start to wonder, whether or not Nergal actually went through on his attempts of not sounding like anybody else in and around the genre. Well, it certainly comes off as a mixture of all that either Behemoth themselves already did or someone else pioneered on a full-record scale, but now scattered around individual songs.
However, even though the songs each appear to borrow from slightly different “Make Your Own Hellish Metal” help book, Behemoth pump up their pacing skills and patch the flow of the record to flawlessness. It goes from traditional atmospheric black metal (“Wolves Ov Siberia”), to inter-genre multi-layered half-atmospheric black metal and half-bastard son of death thrash (“God = Dog”), to blackened death metal (“Ecclesia Diabloica Catholica”), to slightly low-toned ode (“Bartzabel”), back to regular black metal with occasional slow-downs that if looped could turn into something doomy (“If Crucifixion Was Not Enough”), and so on. And the real changes between the songs in terms of technique and execution are quite minimal, but still strike and stick (it also might be my personal overanalysing of that which isn’t there).
And in the end, one could argue this album to be a musical version of (excuse the comparison) things like MCU. It has no ingenuity to it, just professional craftsmanship. But do you really care, when the end product satisfies to such an extent? Does it matter that it jumps on the overused-theme-train, when it uses the clichés to its advantage? Does it matter that their innovation, whether there actually is one, is merely one within the already established boundaries carved before them, when they navigate those paths with such adroitness and confidence?
I say it does not.