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Bit Standard, but Still Great - 80%

Slater922, September 20th, 2022
Written based on this version: 2022, Digital, Independent (Bandcamp)

Behemoth has come a long way from their early raw black metal years from the early 90s. Since the late 90s, Behemoth has gain a notoriety for its unique mix of black metal and death metal, with the 2014 album "The Satanist" in particular being considered a peak in the band's sound. In 2018, however, the band saw a bit of a flop on their next album "I Loved You at Your Darkest". While the overall reception was mixed, fans worried that Behemoth would enter a dark period releasing bad and mediocre albums. Well, earlier this month, they released their latest album "Opvs Contra Natvram", and any fears the fans had on the last album seem to have gone away.

Much of the criticism from I Loved You at Your Darkest was that the instrumentals were very poor, and felt more like bad leftovers from The Satanist. With this album, the first track "Post-God Nirvana" does start the album off with a dark industrial/ambient noise with some ritualistic characteristics. It's not perfect, but it does work as a decent opener for the album. The next track "Malaria Vvlgata" is where things get good. The riffs on this song lean more towards the death metal realms, but still maintain the raw characteristics of black metal that Behemoth always had. The drumming is basic in its beat patterns, but remains effective at powering through the track with its blastbeats. Even the bass is great with its deep sound being a nice fit in this chaotic atmosphere. The instrumentation is noticeably more heavy and aggressive than on the last two albums, and it works very well. Tracks like "Disinheritance" and especially the single "Ov My Herculean Exile" serve as excellent blackened death metal tracks with some of the finest riffs since The Satanist. Compared to the last album, the instrumentals are no doubt an improvement that take on a more intense sound.

As for the vocals, they're alright. Even in the early albums, Nergal's vocals has been the more weaker part of the albums, and this latest album of theirs is no exception. His mix of shrieks and growls might sound cool at first, but if you're a black metal nerd like me, then they sound more standard and not at all that impressive. Even so, I can't deny some of the good vocal performances on here, particularly in the track "Once upon a Pale Horse". The flow of his vocals on this track are really good, and his growls particularly sound menacing enough to enhance the death metal-influenced riffs. Nergal's vocals are passable for the most part and don't sound special, but they still do show off some occasional good moments.

Even the lyrics are good. The lyrics in Behemoth's albums are generally good, and this album in particular does have some great lyrics. Take the track "Neo-Spartacvs" for example, where this verse quotes:

I forge ahead
Like a meteor adrift in cold decay
Thou must heed the call
Ordo ab vniverso
I hail the freedom the gods abhor
To feel greater
To strive higher
To be more

At first, the lyrics look a bit basic, as it's just the Spartans proclaiming to defeat their enemies. However, part of the charm here is while the descriptions are basic, there is enough detail to paint some nice, vivid pictures of what is going on in the story, and in this particular track, you do feel the energy of the Spartans striving to invade Troy and Rome. Furthermore, with the heavy riffs and intense growls of Nergal, these lyrics are given a more deadly and extreme take, as the Spartans seem more intimidating than usual. While the lyrics aren't the most complex, they're still written well enough for the instruments and vocals.

With Opvs Contra Natvram, I think Behemoth has learned their mistakes from the previous album and is actually improving. With more of a focus on heavier riffs and well-executed drumming, plus some great lyrics, and this is certainly another win in Behemoth's long discography. The vocals could use a bit more work, but otherwise, this is an excellent blackened death metal album that I would highly recommend.