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Praise the mighty Behemoth! - 90%

jesse fowler, August 5th, 2015

True strength is not simply a lack of weakness, it is the rise after the fall, it is tasting defeat and spiting it back into the faces of those who doubt you. After the immense success of 2009's excellent ‘Evangelion’ many wondered how Behemoth could possibly top perfection. Then the news of Nergal’s leukemia hit and doubt spread as to what Behemoth would do next, or whether there would even be another album at all. Five years later the band answered the call and the result is 'The Satanist', and it’s massive.

What really hits you hardest when you listen to this album is the dramatic change in the approach to song writing the band has adopted. Don’t go head first into it expecting the technical blackened death metal approach we have seen in the past, it appears this is a very different Behemoth then what we knew. Whereas before the band relied heavily on speed and complexity it is now blunt impact and atmosphere that drives the songs forward. Opening track 'Blow Your Trumpets Gabriel' showcases a rolling thunder cloud of a riff and declares that this is what Behemoth are all about now, the riffs. It also introduces Nergal’s slower more pronounced vocal approach as he declares the first line of the album ''I saw the virgin's cunt spawning forth the snake''. Lovely imagery.

The sound and production of the music has changed dramatically from past albums. This is expected as Behemoth have always stuck to the aim of never making the same album twice. The overall tonal feel of the sound is deeper, rawer and less digital. Production duties were handled by Wojtek and Slawek Wieslawscy and Daniel Bergstrand, the team has done a beautiful job bringing this monster to life. There’s a nice amount of melodic lead work from Nergal and Seth but overall there’s much less shredding then you'd expect, the first real solo isn't until the end of the third song. By spacing these moments out they've created a much more anticipation driven experience.

The mix is rich due to the help of additions including a brass section and three cellist which results in a more epic and diverse sound, the title track is a great example of this. As well as being immensely heavy this album also contains what is probably Behemoth's calmest recording 'In The Absence Ov Light'. The song starts off as a fast and brutal assault until Nergal brakes pace and delves into an acoustic/spoken word passage (an excerpt from Witold Gombrowicz's 'Slub') set against the saxophone work of Marcin Janek, showing how deep his musical talents can reach. The drums also deserve praise. Inferno has always been a fantastic drummer and here he shows he can expand his playing away from his usual technical death metal drumming style. These drums are loud and deep, they rumble, vibrate and really bring power to the songs, they can sound distant before they charge up and crush you, thanks given to Urban Nasvall for his fantastic drum tech work. Also the bass work here is brilliant. Bass is too often left down in the mix to be hardly present, but here it rules. This is definitely the best bass sound Behemoth have used to date. Instead of being only audible during the quite sections it is often the loudest element. It really feels part of the mix now and much like the drums it rumbles and in some parts seems to lead the compositions, as in the intro to 'Ora Pro Nobis Lucifer'.

I bought the special edition digipak version of the album which comes with a bonus DVD containing a live show (Live Barbarossa) and a making of documentary (The Satanist: Oblivion). Both of these are excellent standalone pieces so as extras they are a welcomed bonus. The live show is a good enough example of a Behemoth show and does feature some rare tracks as well as capturing Nergal using an unusually guttural and raspy vocal style. I was particularly impressed with 'Oblivion' which is more like a short film than a behind the scenes documentary. I’d highly recommend this version over the standard album. It does however have a downside, the album cover has been covered by a piece of reflective silver colored card board displaying the Behemoth and 'The Satanist' logos. This wasn’t bad until I realized it had been stuck over the original cover art by Denis Forkas which is a shame because he's a great artist. I assume the intended meaning is that you look at the album and see your own reflection thus, you are 'The Satanist', this is a cool idea but on the other hand I would have liked to see the original cover art used inside somewhere (it also collects fingerprints very easily). Another point to make about the layout is that the lyrics in the booklet have been written in a decorative text that looks like the scribblings of a mad man, it looks very artistic but makes it impossible to read the lyrics. This is a shame because both Nergal and Krzysztof Azarewicz are fantastic lyricist, for example; ''I cut loose the cord ov li(f)e / Depart celestial source /Rub mould in holy pages / Let woodworms eat the cross......Who shall crucify the last prophets / And have them wilt on splintered stems? / Who shall churn hells across the earth / and reascend to seat himself… / at the left hand ov Satan'' (taken from 'Messe Noire'). Or my personal favourite verse of the whole album; ''Like a day without the dawn / Like a ray void ov the sun / Like a storm that brings no calm / I'm most complete yet so undone'' (taken from 'O Father O Satan O Sun'). Of course you can find the lyrics easy enough online, but you shouldn’t have to.

The Satanist is a massive and fantastic work of death metal. It may shock some old Behemoth fans with its changes, I’ll admit that I was undecided when I first heard it, but I found that after each listen I loved it more and more. Give it room to grow and it will imbed itself in your brain. Personally I would say the best songs to check out are 'Ben Sahar' and 'O Father O Satan O Sun' which features verses taken from Alesister Crowley's 'Liber Samekh' in its lyrics and is definitely one of the best songs from any band I’ve heard in a long time. This album is proof that Behemoth are one of the most resilient, unstoppable and best metal bands out there. Check out this wonderful work and praise the mighty Behemoth!