Behemoth’s “The Satanist” — Scary, yet Spectacular

It would be easy to start (yet another) album review by saying how great The Satanist was, how influential Behemoth is in metal, and how the Satanist may easily be one of the best albums of 2014 — already; but in truth, these claims can be debated. But at the end of the day, this album will go down as one of Poland’s more experimental, and certainly bravest, efforts.

There is something interesting about a band who, time and time again, has taken every opportunity to blaspheme religious beliefs and shock every listener, new and old.

Likewise, the lyricist who surprises even the most hardened follower is one worth reading. It is obvious — or at least very convincing — that Nergal, who wrote most of the lyrics on this album — is trying to revoke the position of Jesus Christ as the go – to guy, but as violent as this poetry is, is as alluring as each tune.

Instrumentally, the album is certainly different from their last record, Evangelion. Its dynamics were established right off the bat as the trio, comprised of Nergal (Vocals and Guitar), Orion (Bass), and Inferno (Percussion) opened the album with “Blow Your Trumpets, Gabriel,” which features the sounds of trumpets and horns along side the slow moving, but dramatic track. Although loud guitar play is absent on this track, and it possesses a minimalist approach on drums, the song showcases Orion’s ability to handle the bass, a job for which he is certainly qualified.

Inferno’s prowess behind the drum kit is not stifled either. He has not slowed down since Zos Kia Cultus, but he has only improved on his ability to make the songs more convincing. Even on “In the Absence ov Light,” which switches speeds multiple times, Inferno excels at his ability.

Nergal, too, has only played to his strengths, but even pulled a few old stops. Listeners will notice the use of acoustic guitar on certain tracks, a concept which was popularized upon the release of “Demigod”. He is a perfect team player, never interrupting the flow, and always being apparent enough for the audience to understand each note low and high — which can be a problem with “fast” metal bands.

If Nergal actually said that “most U.S. death metal bands are boring, generic, and uninspiring,” he didn’t let the absence of talent stop him from creating something spectacular, but he has had a way with words recently.

Between fans and angry religious pundits, Behemoth has been the center of legal and public attention. In their home country of Poland, the band experienced a part of the extent of the power of the Catholic Church therein, when lead vocalist Nergal, after tearing pages from a Bible, threw it into the crowd and instructed attendees to “burn it…piss on it.”

It is quite unclear, then, whether the lyrics were written from an honest perspective or for shock value or both. For example, “I believe in Satan, who rend both heavens and Earth; and in the Anti-Christ, His dearly misbegotten…” (Messe Noir) might cover Nergal’s actual religious convictions, as he has previously been outspoken about his Pagan leaning. On the other hand, some lyrics appear to try to be offensive to religious people: “Voice ov an aeon, Angelus Satani. Ora pro nobis Lucifer, You alone have suffered…for thine is the kingdom, and the power forever…” (Ora Pro Nobis Lucifer). However, some lyrics make the listener question “what could be?”

Specifically, the writer instructs Abraham to “…Raise the dagger…And slit the throat ov thy only son. Reverse the history ov man. Fuck and reset the world.” From here, the lyrics become only more violent, sexual, and even downright scary.

Otherwise, the lyrics flow in somewhat of a story, fulfilling the old joke about death metal being like an English class. Knowledgeable listeners will have to type in some references on a search engine.

From a vocal standpoint, this album maybe one of their best since Demigod, which called into question the standard practices of extreme vocal recording. Nergal uses a full range of “screamed” or “growled” vocals, layering one atop the other, singing, and even spoken word in, “In the Absence ov Light,” in English, Latin, and Polish. The day the album came out, many fans complained that the vocal style was a lot different than Nergal’s usual performance — hear Evangelion for the difference. The problem with this complaint is that Nergal’s style has always been experimental, even from the first album. Vocally and lyrically, one thing remains clear: the word Evangelion typically refers to a particular message of great importance. If their last few efforts were warm ups and teasers, this album is the word.

Due to its nature, this album will welcome listeners and freak them out at the same time, but that is not necessarily a negative thing. An open mind will certainly help with reception of the sounds, but there will be few albums like this in the near future.

Behemoth will be at the Irving Plaza in New York City on April 29th. Apparently, Lucifer just is not big right now in Albany. Maybe next time, guys?

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