If you’re at all familiar with the death metal scene then Behemoth really need no introduction. For the uninitiated, however, Behemoth are a Polish blackened death metal band that formed back in 1991. Their progression from their early pure black metal sound to their more recent sound which is primarily death metal with some black metal flourishings is an important one. As the band grew they developed their death metal influences further, with Demigod arguably being their most accomplished work up to this point. Their their previous album (2009’s Evangelion) was a very cold-sounding album, devoid of humanity or frailty, which I think is exactly the sort of merciless sound they were going for. The Satanist, however, presents an interesting change in direction for Behemoth. Not only have they brought back their black metal influence in a big way, this is in many ways the rawest, most emotional, and most human album Behemoth have ever produced.
In terms of the songs on the record, this is easily the most diverse, powerful array of tracks that Behemoth have ever recorded. Tracks like Furor Divinus, Ora Pro Nobis Lucifer, and Amen are blisteringly fast and heavy, with Ora Pro… being surprisingly catchy, and bringing to my mind their earlier album The Apostasy. Amen is one of the heaviest tracks they’ve ever written, period. The guitarwork from Nergal and drumming from Inferno is absolutely insane on this track. Messe Noire is more in the style of Deathspell Omega, with eerie, twisted guitar riffs and drumwork, and a truly fantastic guitar solo to close the track. The importance of his vocals in the sound of The Satanist cannot be overstated, because they’re such a huge part of what makes their sound work. At times a ferocious bellow, at others one can hear his vocals crack and break as the intensity and emotion of the song overcome him.
In my opinion, however, the final four tracks are the strongest on the album. ‘The Satanist’ is really Behemoth trying something outside of their comfort zone. There is a big emphasis on Orion’s basswork (which is absolutely phenomenal through every track on this album, by the way) and on melody at a slower pace. It has a very ‘rock n roll’ feel to it in place, and I found myself enamoured with it. Ben Sahar has a middle-eastern feel to it, and feels in places like a war-chant, in part driven by the unbelievable drumming, and by the end of the track the track explodes into an anthemic masterpiece of death metal. In the Absence ov Light has one of the biggest riffs on the entire album, bordering black, death, and thrash metal, with powerfuldrumwork pushing the song forwards at a relentless pace, until about a minute in the song lapses into a quiet interlude. A saxophone plays softly in the background while Nergal reads a quote by Witold Gombrowiczabout Satanism as an ideology. Out of nowhere, the incredible riff fromthe opening of the track explodes back into the track and the track picks up right where it left off.
However, it is the final track, O Father O Satan O Sun, that is the pinnacle of this album. After a minute of atmospheric, noisy ambiance and droning guitars, we’re fed an unbelievably delicious bassline by Orion before launching into the epic verse. As Nergal bellows the truly anthemic lyrics to this track, the addition of many backing vocals adds a truly epic feel to the song. About 2 minutes in we’re treated to a very bluesy, rock n roll guitar solo from Nergal that gives me goosebumps every time I hear it. The sense of atmosphere, of purpose, and of unbridled emotion and musicianship present in this track really epitomise everything that Behemoth stand for with this release. I think you can expect to see this album on plenty of 2014 end-of-year-lists.