One of the most consistent performers in the death metal arena for the best part of a decade or longer, Behemoth return after a long and uncertain hiatus necessitated by mainman Nergal’s brush with death, immediately delving deeper into the lore of Thelema with tenth album The Satanist.
While bristling with venom and robust intensity, it isn’t quite a perfect return as it wavers between solid statements of intent and moments of mundane directionless.
The very first track is a good example of the latter, opening with a one-riff plod that builds as brass and chanting are gradually added to a crescendo that doesn’t quite come off: it just doesn’t stick together properly and actually sounds forced, something that Behemoth is rarely guilty of. The title track falls into a pattern of listlessness made even more uncomfortable by the uneasy clashing of guitar and synths; those same synths are just as problematic in ‘Messe Noire’ but at least that track is saved by some glorious soloing. Where the synths are scaled back is where The Satanist is best, and ‘Ora Pro Nobis Lucifer’ is a clear highlight, uncluttered and crushing, embellished only by flourishes of horns. Elsewhere, ‘Furor Divinus’ and ‘Amen’ offer blast-beat fussilades reminiscent of their black metal past. The Satanist is concluded by the epic one-two assault of ‘In the Absence ov Light’ and ‘O Father O Satan O Sun!’, the first a progressive triptych with a spoken-word middle section taken from Gombrowicz over a muted sax and the second a truly ardent Satanic invocation built on a doom-ridden plod filled out with more brass. This is where Behemoth really comes into their own and what continues to make them one of the more vital and interesting bands from the extreme metal sphere.
The Satanist may not be Behemoth’s best album but its good parts more than make up for the weaker, and in light of the personal turmoil Nergal has endured since Evangelion it could well have been far worse. If nothing else, this is a statement of Nergal’s defiance and triumph against the odds, a dark celebration of the human spirit. Crowley would be impressed.
- Blow Your Trumpets Gabriel
2. Furor Divinus
3. Messe Noire
4. Ora Pro Nobis Lucifer
6. The Satanist
7. Ben Sahar
8. In the Absence ov Light
9. O Father O Satan O Sun!