It’s hard to talk about Devin Townsend without mentioning the word “prolific”. At this stage it’s almost a cliché to state in regards to him, but it certainly rings true as we seemingly never have to wait too long for a new album or project from the prog maestro. Continue reading →
Goatwhore conjures a musical sound to mind the minute read their name or say it aloud. You know what it stands for, before the words roll off of your tongue. Few modern bands have the grit and the greatness to remain consistently heavy in the face of rising popularity. They are in many ways the Motörhead of their musical generation: without compromise and weakness…. a band that can do no wrong for fans across all of metals fiefdoms and cliques. Certainly there are no Goatwhore haters, only people unaware of them, yet. Maintaining the balance of their message and the quality of their songcraft is the likely secret to their success, beyond some sacred pact with dark forces. Every album is different from the last, yet they never went soft or sold out like some others have. On Constricting Rage of the Merciless (Metal Blade),their sixth album in their 16-year career, Goatwhore rolls up their spiked-sleeves and smashes you in the mouth once again. And you will love it!
Where 2012’s Blood for the Master was a little more nuanced and throwback focused, Constricting Rage of the Merciless kicks you with jackbooted foot and maintains the savagery all the way through. The new album has more than a pointed step towards their blackened death metal history, but also carries with it the continued evolution of the sound of recent releases. Opening track ‘Poisonous Existence in Reawakening’ will crush your ear holes with extreme prejudice. Unrelenting blastbeats, deathly sick riffs and the masterful vocals of Rev. L. Ben Falgoust III will make you smile, unless you are dead. In typical fashion for this act, most of the tracks are tight, average under four-minutes each, and have zero B.S. about them. The majestically brutal ‘Unraveling Paradise’ has no less than four different riffs in the song, all of them amazing. Sammy Duet doesn’t rely as much on thrashy pedaling this time around, coming up with some inventive licks and whirling motifs, all that would shame some of the best tech death bands by the way.
As was the case on the last album, drummer Zack Simmons demolishes expectations and his kit on every song, inspiring much headbanging and fist-banging. If you have seen the band live, you know Zack is a machine who plays equally well on wax. Tracks such as ‘Baring Teeth for Revolt’ and ‘Reanimated Sacrifice’ are a drum fanatics wet dream. ‘Reanimated…’ as on several tracks herein, sees Rev. Ben switch up his style and make use of different parts of his register vocally. Impressive stuff. Also chipping in with a great chopping riff and a slick, short solo is Duet once again, who continues to enthrall listeners year after year.
The bleak and harsh ‘Heaven’s Crumbling Walls of Pity’ flexes the bands black metal muscles again, with a little extra something grim on top. It’s almost like a proggy black metal song you might expect from Ihsahn’s solo work. The ending stanzas are full of cool chords and grooving beats. ‘Cold Earth In Dying Flesh’ is another in a litany of standout, mid-album cuts. It has an eerie intro to set the mood. Not unlike a horror movie soundtrack theme, this slow to simmer beast machine of a song is a great change of pace. Falgoust again just bellows with some of the best vocals he’s ever done. It’s also the longest track on the album; not an epic in length, but with high quality grooves more associated with their other swampy NOLA brethren. When it finally launches into breakneck death thrash territory mid-song, it takes the track to another level without losing the story.
‘FBS’ was first played live on the Behemoth tour this spring and is a typical, circle-pit inducing song if there is one on this album. Full of rawness, with two more sweet solos from Sammy. It’s almost punk without being punk, or punk without too much crust. ‘Nocturnal Conjuration of the Accursed’ continues the trend of heady lyrics, and heavy on the evil sounds that is the bands trademark. There is even a little classic metal fun of galloping riffs and thematic soloing. ‘Schadenfreude’ is another gruesome masterpiece. Black metal, death metal and thrash all come together, but in a sensible way you could almost call it American Blackened Thrash. As a style, this would be a worthy counterpart to the Death `n Roll of Scandinavian bands, but much, much more brutal. ‘Schadenfreude’ is also a lyrical masterpiece, with the title defined as enjoying the suffering of others, in this case those whom most deserve it. The album closes with the fitting ‘Externalize this Hidden Savagery’ and sums up the entire album’s intent quite well before its final notes ring out.
Goatwhore has made an album nearly worthy of the best work of their career, even though it’s on the short side at under 40 minutes. I doubt you will find a more righteously hostile, fun, and well made album from another heavy band in 2014.
Adam “Nergal” Darski is certainly an outspoken and often controversial figure, yet one thing that goes unnoticed about the front man of Poland’s most extreme band is his humanity and courage. Following the success of the band’s 2009 opus Evangelion Darski was diagnosed with Leukemia, yet following a successful bone marrow transplant and a few months of recovery Nergal was back on the road. Yet, his struggles where far from over, dogged by the ongoing court case concerning charges of “causing religious offence” it seems there were many distractions which delayed work on Behemoth’s tenth album The Satanist. Senior Editor Ross Baker Ghost Cult caught up with Darski to discuss his health, celebrity status in his homeland, court cases and the band’s bold new album.
On the phone from his home town of Gdansk where he has been undergoing his routine check up and blood tests to ensure his cancer doesn’t attempt a comeback it seemed pertinent to inquire as to Darski’s health at this time. “I’ve just been for some routine checks and test at the hospital and I am happy to announce I am very much alive and well! The fact that I am healthy and I have the deadliest weapon that Behemoth has ever created in my hands makes my life complete. I definitely feel life has more meaning that it did before. I don’t spend my time over analysing things the way I used to. Life seems to be more joyful these days and I know it sounds like a cliché from a James Bond movie but tomorrow is a question mark and we need to embrace today.”
It is this “never give up” spirit which has driven Nergal throughout his professional life. Unafraid to embrace new challenges it is little wonder the thirty-six year old is already the subject of an autobiography. “The English translation started a month ago and I will see them by February, but it won’t arrive till the fall of 2014. All I ask is that people stay patient because it will be worth the wait.”
The Satanist is indeed a bold statement, which retains all the hallmarks of the Behemoth sound while introducing some bold new elements. In particular, the track ‘The Absence Ov Light’ features a saxophone and acoustic guitar. “The middle section was written spontaneously. The other parts are very radical and extreme and I wanted to add something different to make it epic. I added this quotation from Witold Gombrowicz, one of Poland’s greatest writers, who was persecuted for criticising Polish society during his life, but never compromised for anyone. It is a very personal song to me, which is hard to describe. It is about my interaction with the universe.”
The quote from Gombrowicz play “Ślub” (The Marriage in English) is certainly very powerful. What begins as a critique of religion soon becomes a plea for companionship “Give me a man, let him be like me… Confused and immature, dark and unclear…That I could dance with him, play with him, fight with him,” Nergal’s narration in his native tongue becomes even more powerful when he explains the meaning behind it. “The quotation refers to a human being who is very lonely and fed up of God and religion and just craves the comfort of other human beings. It sounds very desperate and emotional and I love this work. I have to confess I listened to this song a few days ago and I had tears in my eyes. It is a very moving quote and it cuts me to my core.”
It is this raw emotion and very human nature that makes The Satanist a bold foray into new territory for Nergal and co. “Extreme art should be shocking and provoke a reaction. I really hope we are viewed as more than just a Black Metal band. We are an extreme band that can communicate our ideas on so many levels. Extreme Metal music these days is often only extreme by definition. It is a never-ending process of striving for perfection. Too many bands are chasing this and the scene is becoming like the X-Factor for Black Metal. There is no danger and unpredictability anymore. The majority of Death Metal bands from the U.S.A are so generic, they all sound perfect. It is fast and technical but there is no substance. Bands forget about emotion when they strive for perfection. You should be driven by your intuition and not just be concerned with shredding on your guitar. Perfection is boring and uninspiring. When people listen to The Satanist, it will stimulate them in many different ways. I saw Cabaret at the theatre recently and it was extremely moving. Extreme art must make people uncomfortable whether it is music, art or films. It has to be thought provoking. It takes a lot of energy for me to do this. I remember after my transplant when we started playing shows again. There was a time I thought I was going to pass out on-stage because it was so taxing playing the show and I did not have as much energy as before but now I am ready. I know I can give my all to this.”
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!