Friday, 4 April 2014

The Satanist

Artist: Behemoth

Album: The Satanist

Record Label: Nuclear Blast

Behemoth's latest opus is an absolutely stunning album in which the Polish legends encapsulate emotion and power like they never have before

It's an observation lost on no one that some of the greatest inspiration for any form of art comes from pain. From William Blake to Sylvia Plath to My Dying Bride, obsessions with the morbid and deranged, whether inspired by real life events or not, have proceeded some of their most potent work.

Polish Blackened Death Metal veterans Behemoth (who to any fans of extreme music are unlikely to need an introduction) have spent 25 years bringing their darkest yearnings to the fore in increasingly extreme fashion, but on 'The Satanist' the roots of their ascension run much deeper. The record was written in the aftermath of frontman Nergal's battle with a horrific implosion of Leukemia a few years ago. 'The Satanist' is an album that not only palms Nergal's struggle for emotional, heavy handed effect, but also uses it to see the band garner a renewed sense of clarity, vision and power. In short, it's an absolute monster.

One of the things that has made Behemoth such a groundbreaking force over the years is their unassailably brutal fusion of Black and Death Metal, a fusion which in their hands has often been seamless. As their career has continued though, the grandiosity of the Black Metal inflection has become ever sharper, and that can be defined no better than by some of the compositions on 'The Satanist'. Songs like the furious 'Furor Divinus' and 'Amen,' with its terrifying background thug of synth and machine- gun kick drum antics represent Behemoth at their most unrelenting, but it's the enormity and melody of most of the songs here that make them so towering.

Lead off single and album opener 'Blow Your Trumpets Gabriel' is laced with thunderous atmosphere. "I watched the virgin's cunt, spewing forth the snake" offers Nergal, immediately showing that he's lost none of his enthrallment to the dark powers that be. After a tirade of vicious blastbeats the song is drawn to a close by a genuinely beautiful, glacial brass- fueled overture.

'Messe Noir' flits between a slow, pummeling crawl and a dizzying, head pounding blitzkrieg and ends on a soaring note, whilst 'Pro Ora Nubis Lucifer' revels in melody via its teeth gritting pace and gorgeous tremolo picking. "For thine is the kingdom, and the power... Forever" bellows Nergal in righteous fettle.

Nothing savours impact quite like 'In The Absence Ov Light' though, which is at all turns moving, furious and cathartic. "It burns with fever, deep within my soul" howls the frontman painfully in reference to his feud with cancer. The song's mid- section is an excursion imbued with a distant, beacon- esque saxophone, and although Nergal delivers the spoken word vocals in his native Polish, it utilizes all the presence and atmosphere available to it.

The closer 'O Father O Satan O Sun!' cascades and soars with all the enormous hope of a man who has climbed out of a deep pit with a new, level- headed clarity. The monologue that closes the track is similar in character to Hamlet's last dialect and thus borders on melodrama, but it's a fitting end to an album that truly sounds like it was forged by Satan (or some other divine darkness) himself.

And so 'The Satanist' draws to a close and one finds themselves breathing a deep sigh; not a sigh of relief, but of absolute breathlessness in the presence of such musical and emotional power.


Key tracks: In The Absence Ov Light, Ora Pro Nubis Lucifer, Blow Your Trumpets Gabriel, The Satanist
For fans of: Vader, Marduk, Satyricon

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