When Adam Darski aka Nergal, founding member of Polish Blackened Death Metal big hitters Behemoth was diagnosed with leukemia in August 2010, the metal world understandably feared the worst. Coming off the back of the critically acclaimed Evangelion (Nuclear Blast) which topped the charts in their native land, and a hugely successful world tour, it seemed that the quartet’s rapid and deserved rise to the top was to be cruelly dashed by fate. Nergal it seemed, had other ideas.
Refusing to go quietly into that good night, Nergal confronted his illness head on with a fire and passion that left no one in any doubt that he was determined to triumph over it and return to what he does best; shredding like a demon, penning top-notch Death Metal anthems and taking extreme metal to a higher level than ever before. Well the wait is at last over. 2014 sees Behemoth’s glorious, triumphant return with The Satanist (Nuclear Blast/Metal Blade), their tenth album and undoubtedly their best yet.
The riff that snakes through the murk of opening track ‘Blow Your Trumpets Gabriel’ is simplistic, stark and utterly menacing. The repetitive build up expertly raises the tension and levels of excitement to a fever pitch before a skittish blasting section hits you with the force of an avenging angel delivering summary justice. The rest of the track allows every instrument to show off as basslines snake, horns bray and drums race. Oh and Nergal’s vocals sound fantastic; hoarse yet legible, and dripping with presence.
Next track ‘Furor Divinus’ is among one of the deadliest numbers the band have ever recorded; a chaotic and desperate sounding whippersnapper that does more damage in three minutes than most bands manage in thirty while the sinister atmospherics of ‘Messe Noir’ recall sadly missed fellow Satanists Akercocke. However, nothing prepares for the grin-inducing riffage of ‘Ora Pro Nobis Lucifer’ which writhes and grooves like a tortured soul on the Devil’s barbecue. The old adage about the horned one having the best tunes has never been more appropriate here.
The brick to the face that is ‘Amen’ harks back to the brutality of Zos Kia Cultos (Avantegarde) and Demigod (Regain) and features one of the best and shortest solos you’ll ever hear, before the pace slows for the emphatic march of the title track. We are then greeted with the classic sounding ‘Ben Sahar’ which exhibits an aura of demonic grandeur and achieves the trick of sounding unrestrained and coldly in control simultaneously. The rug is then firmly pulled from beneath our feet by ‘In the Absence of Light’ with its ferocious black metal tradeoffs with a mournful spoken word and acoustic passage before closing mini-epic ‘O Father O Satan O Sun!’ defiantly closes proceedings in magisterial style, replete with another baddass solo.
While it would be crass and unfair to say that Behemoth have benefited from the time off, it’s clear that a whole lot of thought and talent has gone into the crafting of The Satanist. The songwriting is clear and consistent, the band sound tight and utterly in control and the album feels like a glorious declaration of victory. Far from rehashing old ideas, Nergal and his cohorts have crafted a concoction of songs with a stunning level of variety, power and bite. This is their best album to date and an early contender for album of the year. Welcome back and fuck cancer!