Monday, 3 February 2014
Review; Behemoth - The Satanist
1. Blow Your Trumpets Gabriel
2. Furor Divinus
3. Messe Noir
4. Ora Pro Nobis Lucifer
6. The Satanist
7. Ben Sahar
8. In The Absence Of Light
9. O Father O Satan O Sun!
There's nothing better as a Metal fan than getting a new album, knowing you're about to listen to something huge. These momentous, all-consuming records are rare, wonderful things like precious stones. When you listen to it the first time you can't wait for the things that will make you lose your mind and jump off of the furniture, or imagine how good it would be live. Every time after that first listen, you take in every note and nuance, suddenly finding deeper scopes in the sounds and lyrics to the record. Relating to it, ultimately gorging yourself upon it in someway or another, whether it's hyperactive, headbanging glee, intellectual deconstruction and appreciation of the music itself, or in a way deeper and more spiritual.
With the way that the creative process and subsequent release of Polish Blackened Death Metal masters Behemoth's tenth album 'The Satanist' had been documented all over the Metal community, I had the distinct feeling this could be one of those albums. Created after a rise and near-fall for Behemoth; the rise being 2009's sublime 'Evangelion' album, the near-fall being frontman Adam 'Nergal' Darski's tumultuous years after Evangelion's release. Nergal went through a battle with Leukaemia for over a year, and had a separate, ongoing battle with the Catholic Church and the Polish legal system for ripping up a bible during a live performance and denouncing the Catholic faith (which he could yet receive a two-year jail sentence for). It's been a hard trek for Behemoth to get to where they are now since then, but it's not been without its triumphs, including a rapturously received headline slot at the UK's Bloodstock Festival, which I witnessed myself. Now, 'The Satanist' is here, and it's time to see if it matches 'Evangelion' and is another victory for Satan's finest.
'Blow Your Trumpets Gabriel' could not begin more ominously, with a chilling, swirling noise heralding a steady, trademark Behemoth riff. The soft yet sinister percussion, courtesy of drummer extraordinaire Inferno, behind it brings the almost Eastern flavour that Behemoth have utilised before. The bass tone used by Orion on this album is gorgeous, too. It's not long before Nergal's commanding tones are heard and are as frighteningly fuelled as ever, preaching the power of darkness that has become synonymous with Behemoth. The song builds in pace and acts as a perfect album opener. There's a brass section to be heard haunting the track at various points, and it accompanies Inferno's blast beats surprisingly well, bringing a very real beauty to the song.
'Furor Divinus' shows that Behemoth have very much brought their Black Metal roots to the forefront of their music. It's also the shortest song on the album, closing at just over three minutes. It's a quick sucker punch to the jaw; Black Metal at it's finest, not derivative thanks to the band's unique stylistic stamp. This is an engaging flurry of power that flows well after the subtleties and grandeur on show in the previous track.
'Messe Noire' comes after, with Nergal preaching Satanic messages with a haunting degree of conviction. This isn't Slayer or Venom, this isn't a gimmick; this is a man speaking from the heart, over the top of a welcoming, sinister embrace of dark atmospherics. Again there's more fury to be shown, this band knows how to go up in through the gears. There's a great meeting of old and modern Behemoth on show here, and a brilliant, soulful guitar solo in the last minute of the song that is a rare thing to find in modern Extreme Metal.
Then the album reaches a lofty climax. 'Ora Pro Nobis Lucifer' starts out with an atmospheric build before charging at untold pace and sulphurous fury with some unbelievably memorable riffs, an amazing bass line, apocalypse-inducing drums and vocal lines that could either chill the soul of the listener or set it ablaze in wild abandon. Nergal's use of the lines 'For thine is the kingdom and the power forever' in reference to Satan and therefor in mockery to the Christian faith and it's God is a sheer stroke of genius that we will all love screaming along fervently at the next Behemoth gig.
'Amen' comes in with the most ridiculously fast blast beat, proving that Inferno is a truly unsung great as far as drumming goes. Dark choral vocalisations and orchestral tinges sweep in and out of this song while the band do what they do best; plough on relentlessly. The energy never wavers and the flow of the album thus far is perfect. This is a song that all the old school Behemoth fans will froth at the mouth for as much as the newer fans familiar with their more Death Metal infused output.
The production on this album is a high point; it doesn't buff the rough edges away too much but it is far removed from the raw, shitty production values of the 'unholier-than-thou' metal underground which Behemoth has towered over and subsequently transcended. The album's title track features an unexpected flourish in the guise of a Hammond organ as well as all of Behemoth's trademark sounds. The horns again make an appearance towards the furious end. It's a beautiful, spacious track that offers a sort of intense, seductive calm before the inevitable storm returns before it's end.
'Ben Sahar' is another such track, imbued with subtler moments that are, in themselves, blatant. Behemoth are masters of creating a truly unsettling atmosphere around the chaos of their Blackened Death Metal music. This is more artistic than most bands manage to come across as in their whole careers. 'In The Absence Of Light' is another standout song with the brilliant heaviness, enveloping atmospherics and a spoken word passage in Polish that all carry on the flow and quality of this astounding record.
The orchestral elements of this album lend themselves to the context of the album as a whole in the most gorgeous and flattering fashion, while Nergal's guitar leads and riffs range from thunderous to beautifully sinister with ease. Inferno's drumming still supplies real virtuosity and relentless pace, while Orion's bass keeps the whole thing tied together with an expert execution of its own and a brilliantly built tone that Geezer Butler would kill for.
The final track is without doubt the finest, and in my opinion the greatest song that Behemoth have ever put to tape; 'O Father O Satan O Sun!' comes in with all the marvel and spectacle that this record deserves to end with, and every instrument on the song is placed and played to perfection. The bass line before the song comes in proper may be the best you hear for decades, and the vocals from Nergal are absolutely perfect, lyrics and all. To make it even better, his voice is backed up by the choir at points. There's something about the song that has a very subtle blues tinge to it, not least in the brilliantly executed guitar solo. This song will hopefully be finishing Behemoth gigs for the rest of time, bringing all of us together in the most perfect Satanic song recorded so far in this century. The spoken word preach from Nergal at the end of the song is the perfect ending to this album, and is both delightfully life-affirming as well as completely chilling due to the frontman's utter belief and conviction.
So, as strings bring the record to an unbelievable, euphoric finish, I think to myself - what have I just heard. The answer is; a true work of art. A beautiful, masterfully crafted album that will last for years to come and will serve as a benchmark of what Extreme Metal can truly be. This, if justice will out, will stand at the highest echelon's of Metal's greats; Master Of Puppets, Number Of The Beast, Reign In Blood, The Blackening, Vulgar Display Of Power, In The Nightside Eclipse, and the other records from Heavy Metal's past now have a new member in the ranks. The Satanist is downright perfect, timeless. An instant classic, to coin an overused cliché. It's the best Metal album I have heard in a long time, and it feels like it will be a long time until I hear anything like it again, if I ever do. Bravo. Album of the year, it seems, is already sealed.