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Having reinvented themselves a number of times in the past, Behemoth has done it yet again with their tenth and latest full-length offering, “The Satanist”. Much has been made of Nergal’s inspirational return to the stage and his triumph over Leukemia so it goes without saying that they have a thing or two to prove this time around. However, whether “The Satanist” lives up to the hype is largely a matter of personal opinion. This is an album that will no doubt separate the casual listeners from the diehard fans. One should approach this listening experience armed with the knowledge this it is, in fact, a much slower paced album than usual.
Having said that, this latest opus can still be perceived as a logical next step from its predecessor, “Evangelion”. Where songs like “Lucifer” and “Alas, the Lord is Upon Me” reintroduced an eerie black metal aesthetic that had been absent from their music for quite some time, “The Satanist” reiterates this and expands upon it greatly. Also like “Evangelion”, the album does not go without its fair share of blast beat fury. I’m pleased to say that tracks like “Furor Divinus” and “Amen” shred with the best of their back catalogue, but overall the emphasis is much more on atmosphere rather than blasturbation.
As should be expected from an artist of Adam Darski’s caliber, this record takes you on a journey and practically demands to be listened to from start to finish. The opening cut and lead single, “Blow Your Trumpets Gabriel”, sets the perfect primer for the rest of the CD and sums up nicely the diversity on display here. However, things don’t get really interesting until the title track and its follow-up, “Ben Sahar”. Together, these two songs see Darski & Co. exploring some unfamiliar soundscapes and territories that are beyond description, but rest assured when you hear them you will stop whatever it is you’re doing and take notice.
Perhaps the best compliment I can give this record is that each song has it’s own unique character and identity that makes it unmistakably different from the others. Of course, it also has its unifying themes that bring it all together as well. There are some choirs, horns, synths and other such ear-candy that weave their way throughout the album with such subtlety as to only enhance the music and are neither distracting nor take away from the other instruments. Also present are a number of guitar solos that have a curious vintage flair to them. This is not entirely out of place as it seems an appropriate match for the cover art, but one has to speculate what brought this out of Nergal.
The only major criticism I have of this album is that there are some avant-garde qualities to the arrangements that make for an overall sound that is at times maybe a little too similar to Deathspell Omega, a group Darski happens to be a huge fan of. While that’s not necessarily a bad thing, there is something to be said for a band that will stick to their guns rather than alter their sound to resemble someone else. Besides that, an eyebrow-raising moment on “In the Absence ov Light” is the only other negative thing this critic has to say about “The Satanist”.
As stated earlier, this album is likely to cause a schism amongst Behemoth’s fans. Some will praise it as a breath of fresh air, a conceptual masterpiece, etc. Still, others will say that the latest offering from Poland’s finest is too far removed from their earlier work. Indeed, it is difficult at moments to believe that this is the same group that released “Demigod” just 10 short years ago. Only time will tell how this new opus will be remembered. My impression is that it is what it is: an honest to god record, straight from the heart, played with conviction, that compromises for no one. Viva blasfemia!
Highlights: Blow Your Trumpets Gabriel, Amen, the Satanist, Ben Sahar