A direct assault to the senses

Comprising of two distinct concert recordings, Messe Noire: Live Satanist (recorded at Progresja, Warsaw, Poland on October 8, 2016) and Messe Noire: Live Assault (recorded at Brutal Assault Festival 2016), black/death metal titans Behemoth’s new live offering promises to be a direct assault to the senses. Does it measure up to the prior output of this seminal act?

Messe Noire: Live Satanist kicks things off with an ominous intro, setting the mood and ambience. The concert proper soon starts with ‘Blow Your Trumpets Gabriel’, from here, it is clear that Behemoth have gone all out. Creating a dark, ritualistic atmosphere to befit the aura of the material they’re performing. Offering first a complete performance of The Satanist is for sure a gutsy move, but if the opening track is anything to go by, it is bound to pay off.

The band soon launch into ‘Furor Divinus’ without a wasted moment, and it’s every bit the furious maelstrom that it was on The Satanist. The live version finds the band in total synergy with each other.

Up next is ‘Messe Noire’, and it’s a thoroughly commanding performance. Easy to see why Behemoth titled this live release after it. This track also takes the opportunity to show how well filmed the Live Satanist portion of the release is. Behemoth have created an all-encompassing atmosphere. Not a minute is wasted between tracks, only serving to highlight the ritualistic nature of these special performances. They had already created a landmark album in The Satanist but these performances only serve to highlight the fine depth of care that Behemoth went to, to ensure that it translated well to the live setting.

At this point, I feel that describing the rest of The Satanist segment of Live Satanist, track by track, is moot, as most who are reading this will already be familiar with the work. Each track is a highlight, but ‘Amen’ especially so with its soaring solos and pounding rhythms. The crowd is utterly captivated by its every beat.  Likewise, the chanted introduction to ‘The Satanist’ provides a brief respite until the track roars to life; the chants thusly mutating into pained screams, the track soon becomes the tour de force it was on the album that bore its name.

‘Ben Sahar’, ‘In the Absence ov Light’ and album closer ‘O Father O Satan O Sun!’ conclude The Satanist portion of the set. Each track is delivered with the same characteristic intensity of those that preceded them. Every focal point, each mid/post-song ritual illustrates why Behemoth are at the top of their game right now. These tracks are executed flawlessly, sounding more like classics than tracks two years old. Slotting rousing renditions of fan favourites ‘Ov Fire and the Void’, ‘Conquer All’, ‘Pure Evil and Hate’, ‘At the Left Hand of God’, ‘Slaves Shall Serve’ and closer ‘Chant for Εσχατον 2000’ proves this point, as the set moves flawlessly from newer to older material.

Messe Noire: Live Assault easily equals Live Satanist in quality and performance. Using Brutal Assault festival as a backdrop means this one has its own distinct aura. Being a festival performance, some songs were dropped, yet Behemoth perform so well that the viewer is not likely to miss the tracks that are not represented. ‘Ben Sahar’, ‘The Satanist’ and the ever powerful ‘Conquer All’ are key highlights here.

I respect the choice to offer what are, on paper, two very similar performances. But upon viewing both sets, clear and key differences are evident, which make both performances must see viewing. In some ways I prefer Assault for its somewhat rawer approach, yet Satanist feels perhaps more like the complete Behemoth experience.

The filming quality for both shows is excellent, furthermore, the recording quality and sound mix are relatively polished; in spots it sounds like you’re listening to a studio recording. But there can be no mistaking the rapturous applause and authenticity of the live atmosphere. Overall Messe Noire represents an excellent package for the Behemoth die hard; as it offers spirited renditions of some of the most cohesive material within their vast discography. For the new Behemoth fan, or perhaps extreme metal fans in general, it is essential for the same reason. If you’re looking to get into Behemoth, this is a fine a place to start as any.