Behemoth - The Satanist (EVP/Rocket)

Back, Bible black, and burning...
Release Date: 
30 Jan 2014 - 11:30pm

Poland’s masters of blackened death Behemoth have been away for a while now, due to frontman Nergal’s ongoing health issues (with which I’m sure you are all now up to speed on the details), and, whilst it might seem more than a tad flippant to say that the man’s life-or-death struggle with leukaemia came at a good time for the band, there’s no doubt that Behemoth were, if not floundering, then certainly treading water when the illness struck. To my ears, 2009’s holding operation Evangelion found the band lacking spark and inspiration – and so the necessarily-taken five year break has certainly primed Nergal’s songwriting instincts with the need to kill on this, the band’s tenth full-length album

They say a brush with death focusses the mind, allowing the brushee to concentrate on what matters most to them, and for Nergal that seems to be his ongoing relationship with Christianity – or lack of same. As usual, the songs here feature a fair amount (actually, make that an absolute shitload) of anti-christian libertarian sentiment; the difference being that instead of a more general Christ-bashing approach, the man turns in a seemingly more personal take on divinity this time around, placing himself at the centre of things. ‘Hail my return!’ he bellows on superb opener Blow Your Trumpets Gabriel, and who are we to decline such an imperious demand?

As a whole there’s far more detail to enjoy here than the last couple of Behemoth releases, with the band putting more thought into its stock in trade barrage than ever before; that said, if it’s purely satanic bludgeon you’re after then fear not – the darkness and cold never recede, or at least never recede so much that your listening pleasure will be compromised - see the appropriately-titled Furor Divinus for confirmation, should you rquire it. 

Final track O Father O Satan O Sun! perhaps demonstrates this new found freedom of thought and action; a slow-building epic that actually evokes thoughts of Led Zeppelin’s Kashmir in the bones of its stately grind; it features some magnificent (dare I say it traditional?) guitar playing from session man Seth and Nergal, before exploding into epiphanic shards of black metallic thunder, the song playing out finally as a funereal dirge beneath which Nergal pledges his allegiance to the unlight.  It’s compelling, noble stuff that demands your respect; notwithstanding the awful struggle that provides the backdrop to this album, it’s the stunning power and belief of the return that is perhaps most impressive.

This album is without doubt the real deal, and it’s to be hoped thst as Nergal returns to his full strength and vigour that that recovery is mirrored by Behemoth as a whole. If it is, then the fruits of the highest echelons of metal grandeur are surely within the band’s reach. Devastatingly good stuff.