Currently Behemoth are on the top tier of metal bands never mind extreme metal today, but yet they suffer as do all bands with fickle fans. Basically, there are last century’s hardcore black metal fans who scorn everything Behemoth have put out since Satanica, and now the more death metal fans who embrace everything the band that have released since the turn of this century.
Behemoth established the underground black metal scene and along with death metal compatriots Vader and Hate, placed Poland on the metal map for everyone to take notice. For me, I like both black and death metal and have enjoyed Behemoths’ back catalogue and I am of the opinion that if you are moved emotionally and physically to the music, I couldn’t care less what style they play. Recently I reviewed Behemoth’s live album Messe Noire and was blown away by the band’s musicianship and the fact that it was pretty much note perfect, so when the opportunity came to review this beautifully intriguing album I Loved You at Your Darkest, I made sure it was me that got it.
2014 was the year that Behemoth released their best album, the exquisitely titled The Satanist. Behemoth have a huge task following on from that album as it can be regarded as one of, if not the best blackened death metal album of recent times. What may ring alarm bells for some fans was on the press release for this album, Nergal is quoted as saying “But 15 years ago, if you had asked me who I thought was the best band on the planet, I probably would have said Mayhem or Morbid Angel. Today if you asked me, I’d say AC/DC”.
Fans need not worry with having an intro with children singing “Jesus Christ, I forgive thee not” shows that Nergal et al are not done with knocking down the Christian faith just yet. Followed by “Wolves ov Siberia”, of which I watched the stunning video upon its release, this really is a stand out track amongst stand out tracks. One thing Behemoth do to perfection is mix emotion with speed and know how to get the listener embraced in the music before encouraging them to growl every lyric. A stunning riff is prevalent throughout the song and with compatriots Orion and Inferno being as note-perfect and precise as much as Nergal, Behemoth have started this album impeccably.
“God=Dog” is where we see the first parts of the rockier influences in Behemoth’s music and maybe even the progressive side of the band before Inferno hits us with his immense blast beats and Nergal spits forth his venom. There are also use of choirs and the use of children singing in this song which enhances the feeling of enlightenment you get from Behemoth. I don’t think this would again turn their own fans against them as they are not doing a Metallica or anything. Behemoth are enhancing their sound, progressing and keeping it as original as possible.
“Ecclesia Diabolica Catholica” is the most progressive of songs thus far in the album with choirs, trumpets and acoustic guitars before returning to the Behemoth of old. I really like this new side to them and although it definitely raised an eyebrow, it caused me to bang my head at the same time. Latest video release “Bartzabel” opens with an intriguing and gripping intro which a song is containing clean signing backed by Nergal’s rasps. If Ghost had any blackened death metal in them, this is what they would sound like. This is easily not a stand out track on the album but at the same time, I was drawn and sucked in and found myself singing along to it.
“If Crucifixion Was Not Enough” carries on with the stylistic change from the norm, with its kind of punky d-beat drumming from Inferno and the only thing keeping it remotely Behemoth is Nergal. Don’t worry, they have not done a Watain, but they definitely have broadened their horizons. “Angelvs XIII” hits as hard as it gets and is the Behemoth we know and love. It’s as if this song is a statement to say that the last couple of tracks were enough of the experimentation and let’s do what we have done for almost twenty years and play blasting blackened death metal. There are the rockier guitar solos mixed with all the blasphemy but it is a relentless track nonetheless.
“Sabbath Mater” starts with a dark and powerful riff and is more of a death metal style song but then comes the surprise again with the choir singing alongside Nergal. Again there are the rockier style guitar solos that are unaccustomed to Behemoth which just shows a different side to Nergals’ guitar playing. This could be the best song Behemoth have ever written. “Havohej Pantocrator” has absolutely everything in it, from its melody to the all-out blasting and everything in between. Reciting their own take of the Lord’s prayer, Behemoth have, let’s just say, changed the words and culminates in full on blast beat and blackened death metal of the highest order.
“Rom 5 8” again sees Behemoth at its most progressive before mixing it with the sound they are renowned for. You cannot deny the quality on show here, even if it is not the same Behemoth we know and love. What Behemoth need now is a strong ending to this stunning album and it comes in the form of “We Are The Next 1000 Years” and its Behemoth back to their blasphemous best. Even when Behemoth return to their blackened death metal, it’s not just run of the mill stuff, its class of the highest order. This again highlights the time changes that Behemoth encapsulates its audience and ending in harmony is supreme class and musicianship. Closer “Coagula” could easily have lyrics to it but was actually a nice way to end the album with an instrumental and ease the listener out of the album.
What Behemoth has done here is taken The Satanist and used its structure but instead of releasing the same material has added and progressed new elements to their ever-enhancing sound. Behemoth are masters of their art and once again will ride the tide from the commercial success and tours off the back of this album. However, the hardcore Behemoth fans may have a slight worry that they are moving away from the sound that they have been refining and defining genres with this century. I really like what they have done here and have not drastically changed their style to include a country and western song per se, but used all genres of rock and metal to enhance their sound and keep them light years ahead of the pack.
I Loved You At Your Darkest is out now