Love them or hate them, you cannot deny the musical entity that is Behemoth and their position at the forefront of the extreme metal scene. With ten albums under their belt and countless EPs and singles, Messe Noire (Black Mass) is Behemoth’s seventh live album and was recorded in their native Poland.
Black metal has lost the shock value that it had in the early 90’s where front covers of magazines all over the world had corpse painted individuals with knives as long as your arm proclaiming their worship for Satan. Musicians have had to turn to intelligence and superior songwriting in order to be taken seriously by the metal market and these are things that Behemoth has in spades. With the hardcore black metal element calling Behemoth “sell-outs” throughout the years, with branded beer and relationships with celebrities, the only thing Behemoth sell out today are venues across the world with numerous world tours under their belts.
It is from their most recent tour that this live album is taken, where Behemoth play in its entirety arguably their best record – The Satanist. It is only fitting that Behemoth release a live album solely of The Satanist material. Depending on what version of the live album you buy, official videos, additional songs and their festival appearance at the Brutal Assault in 2016 are also added.
The Satanist was unleashed to the world in 2014 and the CD version of Messe Noire has the same track listing. Therefore, I shall highlight personal favourites from that album as I am pretty sure that unless you were born under a rock or were too scared to buy it because of the title, you will have heard it already.
Opening with a dark ambient piece that sends shivers up your spine, the opening riff of “Blow your Trumpet, Gabriel” fills the air. The first thing that is apparent is the sound quality, with it being crystal clear and flawless in execution. Nergal’s voice is as rich and as full as ever and when we hear him growl the opening line, “I saw the virgin’s cunt spawning forth the snake”, you know that this is going to be a night dedicated to the Horned One. The band are note perfect and it has always amazed me how Nergal can growl and play ferocious technical riffs at the same time but hearing and seeing it live proves that he, as well as the rest of the band, are seasoned professionals in the art that they create.
The opening section of the next song “Furor Divinus” is exceptional and sees drummer Inferno putting in a sterling performance with precision blast beats and double bass. It always amazes me the stamina of a drummer in extreme metal, being able to play as fast as this for over an hour, yet Inferno sounds like he could play for another hour. His double bass work in “Ora Pro Nobis Lucifer” is relentless and backed by Orion, they make a formidable partnership. This is another highlight of the album and they play it just about to perfection. Nergal and live musician Seth have a great understanding and play well off each other also.
Title track “The Satanist” brings out the mellower side to Behemoth and highlights Nergal’s voice which can sometimes be overdubbed on albums, but on here he sounds possessed and shines throughout this song. This is giving the crowd a bit of respite until we get to the end of the song with solos flying everywhere and blast beats killing it. “The Absence Ov Light” with the stunning riffs from Nergal and Seth backed by Orion and Inferno is probably the highlight of the live album for me. This is an impressive song right from the beginning with a particular emphasis on the iconic riffs at the end. Album closer “O Father, O Satan, O Son!” concludes this version of the live album, with Behemoth feeling sorry for the fans and playing their slowest number to perfection with not a note out of place.
I am not a particular fan of live albums due to the feeling that there is always something not feeling quite right with it, but Behemoth are true masters of their art and it comes out of this live recording as if they were playing in your living room in front of you. Messe Noire showcases where Behemoth has merged the black and death metal scenes to create a monster of a live recording. I will be purchasing the DVD where you will get the visual aspect of the performance, but this album made me feel as if I was there at the gig.
The sound, the musicianship and the crowd participation makes this an essential purchase for fans of extreme metal music.
Messe Noire is out now