Behemoth may be one of the first extreme metal bands that I encountered early in my journey into the genre, but despite their stature in the international scene they have never really been one of my favourites, and all too often I find myself finding their music sounding rather boring. The Satanist is the band’s 10th album, and the first full length release after band mastermind Nergal’s successful battle against cancer, never wavering in his stance against religion throughout the process.
With five years in between albums and tough personal battles fought between Evangelion and The Satanist, one can almost be sure that the band returns with renewed vigour on their new album, and already The Satanist has received heaps of praise from international media. Despite so, the cynic in me put off listening to the album until recently, and what a mistake that was.
Blow Your Trumpets Gabriel quickly let listeners and fans of the band know that the band are as focused as ever, and the riffs of Nergal are instantly recognisable, reeking of that classic Polish style that has been characterised by bands like themselves and Hate. Unlike the Behemoth that we have grown to know of late, the band does not rush into full speed death metal onslaught, and instead the band takes a markedly atmospheric path this time round, and the layers upon layers of orchestration that are on tracks such as these ensure that the listener constantly feels suffocated. And it is precisely this shift in songwriting and playing style of Behemoth that makes The Satanist such an enjoyable release, with the band displaying their versatility and introducing a larger range of stylistics instead of focusing on being brutally satanic.
The blackened elements on the album are also more evident this time round, such as that dissonant playing on songs like Messe Noire, bringing in some rather French sounding influences of Deathspell Omega or Blut Aus Nord, further building the anxiety and sense of unease that one feels as The Satanist progresses. This certainly helps in making The Satanist an even more atmospheric listening experience, fusing the coldness and bleakness of the genre with the intensity of the death metal.
While the entire band are definitely at the top of their game over here, it is Nergal’s works, both on vocals and on guitars that really take the spotlight on The Satanist. His vocals bring the listener through the entire spectrum of negativity, with desperation and desolation on some of the tracks, though he ends off on a high note, with the strength to finally conquer all. The lead guitars as well, also show a different side of the band, with Messe Noire even including a rather melodic and somewhat melancholic-sounding solo towards the end of the track. Heck, even songs like Ora Pro Nobis Lucifer see the band indulging a groovier style than what Behemoth has come to be known for, without losing any energy at all.
I could go on and on about what makes The Satanist an excellent album, and with each listen Behemoth‘s latest work just sticks with me more and more. With the band now exploring and experimenting more with their songwriting style, I eagerly anticipate even more material from these Polish legends in the near future.