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Without music, life would be a mistake
If you haven’t heard of Behemoth by this point you’re either new here or are that guy who claims to be a metalhead while proclaiming Tool as the heaviest and most technical thing to grace the musical world. Over the last 23 years, Behemoth has established itself as a powerhouse in the world between black and death metal. Five years after their last record, Evangelion was released, we are met with the newest from Behemoth, The Satanist. A massive success on the charts right out of the gates, The Satanist is looking to be Behemoth’s most successful record yet. Musically, a movement has been made pushing the focus of the band back towards their original black metal roots while maintaining a strong death metal presence.
Jumping straight into things with the first track, “Blow Your Trumpets Gabriel”. It starts off interesting enough, a reasonably catchy intro that starts off slow and doomy building up at an agonizing rate to peak somewhere over the two minute mark, where the song breaks with a nice bass fill that drops into something that should awaken the listener, assuming they started to drift off at some point during the last few minutes of the exact same riff being played. The song ends fairly aggressively only to fall back into the same agonizing pace a few tracks later. It’s like listening to someone slowly flatline with the occasional palpitation to keep things moving. “Furor Divinus” is actually one of the strongest tracks off the album. It maintains an aggressive feel that really does a great job of accelerating the pace of record, which is not a job the second track should have.
The most frustrating part of all of this is the fact that there are a lot of really strong musical elements that I really enjoy. The really thick, growling bass tones that are worked into the tracks are great! You can actually hear what Orion is doing and I love it! Then you get the horn section playing for a brief time on the track that you would assume should have horns. I actually really liked the addition of the brass work into it all because were it not in there, that track would have probably lost all of my interest and then put me completely to sleep. The presence of instruments that aren’t usually seen in this kind of extreme music was rather refreshing, albeit bittersweet since it was so short lived. Maybe that was just me hoping to hear some crazy brass work after it having been done so well by Cephalic Carnage a few years back. Half way through “In the Absence ov Light” we are met with an absence ov music while a spoken word sample takes over. Again, bittersweet moments here. The whole spoken word thing was pretty intense the first time with the return of some sexy sax work making the track feel like we were in some dark, late 90’s coffee shop listening to bad poetry. After a few more listens, the whole thing quickly began feeling like a sort of crutch, like the Behemoth version of breakdowns. They even use another version of spoken word breakdowns on the next track! Better yet, they didn’t even transition out of it well, either! The second the guy was done talking, they immediately go back to full throttle blasting that we’d seen just scarcely by this point. Where is the musical prowess in that? There are millions of ways to have moved out of the spoken word section that would have made sense and not been so abrupt. Perhaps with some more of the doomy bass and drum work that they didn’t abuse whatsoever throughout the entirety of the record as is.
After being around for so long, you’d think that Behemoth would have a stronger grasp on the musical concepts that define the genre they’re working in. I get trying to push the boundaries and be edgy and avant-garde, but they were way off the mark here. There seemed to be so much emphasis on ‘artistry’ and image that they lost sight of the fact that there is far more to the actual music. You can take all the artistic liberties you want with your music, but that does not mean they’ll go over well with your fan base, who are your fans for the simple reason that they love the direction you’d been going in. If you disagree here then you should go take a listen to Illud Divinum Insanus. There is plenty of artistic liberty being taken there, but I’ve never seen an album go over that poorly with fans. When it comes down to it, there are really strong aspects of this record that are overshadowed by the sub-par writing and over emphasis on image. I enjoyed it for the most part, but quickly forgot most of the tracks and walked away feeling like I was missing something. The record doesn’t stick with you, it doesn’t grab you by the shirt and beat you into submission like a proper death metal record should do. I understand the move towards the avant-garde and different, but this was a pretty strong miss for me.