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The news of Nergal's recovery from his struggle with leukemia brought the winds of hope regarding a new Behemoth release. In 2012, all these hopes were materialized as the Polish blackened death metal titans entered the rehearsals room, and started writing new songs for their future album. A few months later, in mid 2013, the title of the new album was announced, and I thought I misread something at first. "The Satanist", why on Earth would any serious and mature band name their album like that? No, really? Disappointed by the title, I expected the album to be worthless...
And so came the release of the first official track (apart from live recordings), entitled "Blow your trumpets, Gabriel!". I gotta admit I was caught unprepared, without expecting how awesome the track would sound. A different, slower intro builds up into one of the most brutal breakdowns in the whole Behemoth discography, just as "Alas Lord is Upon Me" from their previous release, Evangelion, culminates a long buildup with an outburst of energy and hate. The outro to the song is mind-blowing, the blast beats being backed by eery, haunting trumpet sounds that enforce the title. Suddenly, I thought this album might just be better than their previous works, and decided to ignore the horrible title and give it a listen as soon as it appeared. "Ora Pro Nobis Lucifer" was the next track released, only two or three weeks prior to the release of the CD. The song is a monument of aggression, anger, while being melodic and flowing at the same time.
Overall, I'd describe the album as a rather unexpected balance of brutality, chaotic and mind-blowing structures, aggressive blast-beats and beauty, epic passages, melodic choruses and complex riffs. Technically, the album is not superior, but being technical doesn't make an album great. Tracks such as "Amen" are incredibly brutal, Nergal delivering crushing and merciless vocals, matched by the extremely fast drumming Inferno is best known for. Other songs, such as "Messe Noire" or "Ben Sahar" are slower and less brutal, but they show a change in Behemoth's style. Their atmosphere is bleak, dark, but not in the way doom metal is, instead, offering images of the Dark Ages, filth, disease, death and misery. The closing track of the album combines some unusual vocals, not seen in other releases. The almost chanted vocals fit perfectly with the instrumental, and towards the end, the spoken part is of breathtaking beauty, being melancholic and epic at the same time, much in the way of "He Who Breeds Pestilence", off their 2009 album. The drums seem like a power factory, relentless, inexhaustible, dead-on time. Another nice thing is the progressive manner of the album: instead of being linear, the songs evolve and progress constantly, making it a very interesting release.
Lyrically, Krzysztof Azarewicz and Nergal did the same great job from a linguistic point of view. The texts are rich in archaisms, unusual words that contribute to the overall feeling of the album. Structures such as "Great volcano ov excrement" are, however dull it might seem, an important part to the wholeness of the album. However, given the fact that Behemoth have been around for 23 years now, I think that still sticking to the same "satanic" line is...immature. Even though I know they tried to deal with a metaphoric meaning of the word "satan", it's overused and fails to achieve it's purpose. The texts on their previous recordings are way better, without being childish... I mean, what's the point in abusing of the whole "satanic" shit, when you could be blasphemous and incisive in a clever, metaphorical way (as seen in their previous releases).
So, in the end, it's a great, great, great release. I am extremely impressed by the music, and consider it's an album worth listening to. However, the stupid and immature title takes away points for this album, as do the lyrics. Come on, the guys are in their late 30's, why stick to the exceedingly satanic imagery? This is a rebellion suitable for a band that has just begun and the members are only 17, when it's "cool" to be in league with the unholy...