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A little more epic, a little less blackened. - 74%

hells_unicorn, April 21st, 2009

The gods of musical self-reinvention Behemoth have returned after about 3 years of slumbering in the Polish death metal catacombs and have again graced us with their blessings of brutality and darkness. “The Apostasy” sees the band moving further away from their black metal roots and into a basic form of modern death metal. It differs from most other bands in the latter style only in terms of tonality, as the dissonant yet still largely tonal blending of Middle Eastern sounds and common practice chromatic chord relations that the band uses bear little similarity to either brutal or melodic death metal. In basically every other area, from Nergal’s barks to the fairly formulaic drumming of Inferno, each of these songs just come off as a more epic answer to recent Polish death bands such as Vader and Dies Irae, whom the band has had some connections with in more recent times.

Although the band has been out of the pure black metal realm for a good few years, this album marks the biggest deviation from their older selves, as it is the most structured and restrained of any of their offerings. Granted, the Behemoth version of restrained is still pretty intense, as the drums are still blurring like the tail of a comet, the riffs and base work on here meld together to create a thunderous low end stomp character that typifies the concept of heaviness, and there are plenty of impressive lead guitar slots to keep your standard Slayer loving old school metal fan satisfied. But compared to previous releases, most notably the equally modern sounding yet much wilder “Demigod”, this is structured in a manner that is mildly comparable to a modern variant on death/thrash.

The lyrics draw upon a mixture of pagan mysticism, Luciferian writings, historical events and even numerology to set the subjects upon which this heavily programmatic album is based. Nergal definitely takes a strong interest in all of these subjects as he includes an explanation of where he got the influence for each song. The most interesting of these is his tying of the Assyrian and/or Babylonian demon “Pazuzu” in with Seth and the Hindu goddess Kali, which results in a rather interesting set of lyrical references to all 3 over the top of a set of grim musical sections that bear the most resemblance to their black metal roots of all the songs on here. Take away the hyper speed drumming and what you have isn’t all that far removed from an Eastern dance song with an odd sensation of coldness.

If you went by songs such as the aforementioned “Pazuzu”, or others of a similarly extreme persuasion such as “Prometherion” and “Kriegsphilosophie”, you’d quickly assume that there’s not any restraint to be found on here. But largely the rest of the songs on here are pretty tame and melodic in character. “At The Left Hand Ov God” definitely has a doom-like character to it, as aside from the drums the music tends to progress slowly and serve the lyrical content. “Libertheme” and “Inner Sanctum” definitely go for more of a groovy and atmospheric affect, and are pretty easy to follow, the latter of the two actually utilizes clean vocals part of the time. The standout amongst the slower and more formulaic songs is “Be Without Fear”, which edges pretty heavily towards a death/thrash sound, with riffing that sounds fairly similar to a couple of songs heard on Iced Earth’s “Burnt Offerings” actually.

As a whole this is a very easy album to enjoy, but not really something that upstages the bulk of Behemoth’s back catalog. People who like big sounding epic themes and really polished production work will probably go for this, but if you’re looking for an album that shoots for intensity above all other things, “Demigod” is a more logical choice. But this is still a worthy album for the band and has some classic songs with real staying power, and definitely a cut above a lot of what is passing for death metal in recent years.

Originally submitted to (www.metal-observer.com) on April 21, 2009.