Thursday, February 13, 2014

Behemoth - The Satanist [2014]

Behemoth is a name that every metalhead out there ought to be familiar with, even though (like me) the negligence of their overpraised backlog may to some seem like the right thing to do; and rightfully so: these Poles are celebrated for pretty much initiating the Polish black metal scene, and being allegedly the best - a statement whose latter part is quite difficult for me to accept. Their extremity then sort of redefined itself in the 21st century with the intrusive entrance of death metal into their influences, forming an amalgamation of their previous, run-off-the-mill Scandinavian sound and brutal death metal mostly in the tradition of their countrymen Decapitation. The band's last output, ''Evangelion'' was not the strongest piece in their discography. Now, after almost five years, hampered by Nergal's unfortunate cancer (and other problems I imagine they faced) the Poles are back, and with almost the entirety of the metal universe eyeing them in eager, almost rapacious expectation; and I don't know if it's the long years our plunge into a fresh decade, but the Poles have completely transformed, carrying the promise of a metamorphosis so immense that it managed to the elicit the attention of even this great scoffer...

To be honest, the change is not entirely an unanticipated one. It's only the consternation a reviewer suffers from so many overrated releases which turn out to be absolute crap that makes him so weary to give ''The Satanist'', the trio's masterful 10th full-length, a proper chance. Before actually mustering the endurance to bear the ill-surmised fragility of the album, I think I was subconsciously aware that the album was in some way superior to its predecessors. This, no doubt, owed to the artistic approach I saw in the cover art. On the other hand, the title seems almost ridiculous; the culmination of everything the black metal genre has ever striven for in one majestic, desultorily release? Oh yes indeed, because ''The Satanist'' is just un-fucking-believable. Perhaps ''Evangelion'' was a nice, steady step forward in the band's career, but this just abolishes everything the band has ever put out; an almost ultramundane current of dizzying carnality and atmospheric impressionism impregnating the untold listener like a slew of celestial demons rupturing forth from the universe's ungodly core - to compare the distance the band made with this to that of its predecessor would be like comparing the idle jump of your neighbor's cat from a tree to the astral leap of a starlit meteor through the expanses of our meager solar system into the eternal vistas of a new galaxy, a new time...

The change goes far beyond certain musical alterations: the conceptual and visual divinity that the trio is trying to portray is just phenomenal. Sure, no outward image of a band can be taken with absolute seriousness as far as black metal goes (even if they're burning churches) but they've taken the idea of satanism to a whole new level with ''The Satanist'', which is just one good reason among a myriad others why it shouldn't be overlooked. Though Behemoth is an established group by now, with a certain distinct sound flowing steadily in their veins, the material required to attain such a metaphysical level of musical progress is no small amount, and one can easily nod at some obvious influences. In general, the Poles seem to have played in the liking of Antediluvian, Mitochondrion, Teitanblood and Morbid Angel even, but there's so much infatuation with orchestral, epic reverberations that I am unabashedly going to add Septic Flesh's recent output into the list as well. Perhaps ''The Satanist'' is slow to permeate its influences, having the attitude of mercurial tempo-changing throughout its course; constantly shifting between savage, unbridled currents of black/death tremolos, more pacy verse riffs and a slower, trudging blanketing of funereal, subterranean might. The dense focus of the guitars immediately create an aura of chaos and uncertainty, but their layered rows of percussive filtering are delivered with surprising clarity. The drums form a punchy, balanced and at times terrific dialect between the walls of sound, the bass is fluent, and the trio is certainly not refraining from throwing in a few synthesizers or even saxes in there (''The Absence ov Light''). Nergal's roar is of course undaunted and huge, unwavering in its divine guttural attacks.

The use of dispersing chords is a well-used aspect of the album that permeates through the beginning or endings, or simply the more droning moments of the album. Tremolos are more than abundant; they spread through the album's veins like lethal poison. What makes ''The Satanist'' special is perhaps the appreciation of epic, almost mournful guitar passages that intertwine with choruses for maximum impact, which, surely enough, works splendidly, especially if we take something like the stellar ''Ora Pro Nobis Lucifer'' into account. And perhaps beyond having memorable guitar riffs, ''The Satanist'' gets its quality from having so many memorable moments in general. Instrumentation might constitute for an important part of memorability, but one has to consider all aspects at hand, and illuminate them with utmost musical acumen in order to achieve true quality. Though this concept is not embraced in full-ease with ''The Satanist'', for a record that relies on the heaviness of its riffs and the ritualistic convolution they create, it has an excellent armada of such moments, ranging from the chorus of ''Ora Pro Nobis Lucifer'', the haunting progressions of the title track and the indisputable awesomeness of ''O Father O Sun O Satan!'', easily the best song I've heard in 2014 thus far.There's even an inclusion of oriental melodies on ''Ben Sahar'', but the overall use of such sounds otherwise is scarce. Behemoth's strain ultimately births a manifest of majestic darkness, with glimpses of wonderful sunlight here and there. And to think, can they get any better? Well. the poetic tone of their lyrics is such that would have made Dante proud:

Voice ov an aeon
Angelus Satani
Ora pro nobis Lucifer
You alone have suffered
The fall and torment ov shame
I'll smite heaven's golden pride
And never pity thee
Immaculate divine
Satan ov Elohim
None dare stand in your way
Thou bow to none
Ov Eden's feculence
Conjure the serpent messenger
Saviour (order in) world's decay
Concord in temptation
And in the fall ov Eve

For Thine is the kingdom
And the power...
And the glory...

Behemoth has probably achieved their greatest feat. I doubt that they'll top ''The Satanist'', but as this seems like a new epoch for their career, there is always the possibility that an even better culmination point will be created. The reason I complain about it is because there is, even though the overall presentation was superb, a very slight exasperation, one what makes the album shy of attaining perfection. I don't really have a definition for the immaculate atmospheric death metal album (Septic Flesh came really close with their last two offerings) but I do know that despite everything Behemoth is a tad behind it. I would have preferred a little more vitality in  some of the slower moments. This is always going to be the case with excellent albums: all but a few songs will be perfect demonstrations, and those songs will drown the others out. Fortunately, the caveat can be easily ignored, considering the alteration the trio went with ''The Satanist'' - all I can say is that any fan of death metal ought to give this a try. And if they don't like it, then you could just stop giving a fuck about other people and just cuddle like a newborn baby and listen to this until your ears plead for Satan to redeem them. Because I do not possess the dexterity to get my hands off this fucking monster.

Ben Sahar
The Satanist
Ora Pro Nobis Lucifer
O Father O Satan O Sun!

Rating: 90%

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