Behemoth The Satanist2014 Metal Blade Records
What doesn't kill you...
When Behemoth vocalist/guitarist Nergal was diagnosed with leukemia back in 2010; it seemed like there might have been a glimpse of light welcomed into his darkened heart. After all, it was through the good will of man that a matching bone marrow donor was found; thus allowing him to continue upon his wretched course.
If the album’s title didn’t spoil it, being faced with the fragility of life hasn’t swayed him from exalting the left hand path. What it appears to have done instead is instill him and the rest of this Polish horde with a hardened resolve. The type of solemn conviction required to construct this, their most empowered discharge of blackened symphonic death metal to date.
Having now peered directly into the abyss; the band spread their blasphemous message with a pressing urgency. Much of this ravenousness manifests itself within the rhythm section. For it is the low end that routinely sounds as though its dredging the depths of hell; with the flailing percussion cracking the whip to ensure its persistent stride.
With the heavy lifting handled, the sinister web of decayed ambiance and searing riffs weaved by the guitars are left unencumbered; making for a fluid, if not gnawing performance. Nergal‘s barks are surprisingly lively as he spews out his agonized hymns of hellfire and torment. Regardless of your views on the profane lyrical content, there’s no denying the fervor and relentless assurance he delivers here.
That said, while tunnel vision can be an issue when it comes to song structuring, there surely are exhilarating vistas to be seen along the voyage. One such sonic aside is found on “Blow Your Trumpets Gabriel“, which finds the band offset by the choral ambiance of what might as well be a choir of fallen angels. The defiant bass found on “Ben Sahar” is also a welcome respite, lurching forward with confidence and identity.
The horns that close out the title track practically beckon the end times while cleverly offering jarring closure to a whirring guitar solo. There’s obviously an established Behemoth framework at the core, but it’s the intricacies such as those listed above that keep the listener subjugated.
As an album, “The Satanist” is a provocative and commanding performance with chasm-like depth and grandiose poise. The pacing is admittedly grueling and often revels in its own severity. But there’s enough flourishes, spoken interludes, etc. to keep the listener enthralled from start to finish.