Behemoth, ‘The Satanist’ – Album Review
Behemoth’s five-year drought between studio albums is a storied tale. In August 2010, the band's frontman, Nergal, was diagnosed with leukemia, which was originally thought to be too advanced for chemotherapy treatments to be effective. After finding a bone marrow match in a donor, he underwent a transplant, which was ultimately successful following an infection setback a few weeks after undergoing the process.
‘The Satanist’ is an album title that is closely affiliated with Nergal’s triumph over leukemia. His denouncement of all things holy was questioned, but he refused to budge and accept any god while potentially looking death in the face. Instead, his contempt for Christianity only grew stronger throughout his battle. Fully back to health, Nergal has composed Behemoth’s most important musical statement yet with a title that should silence the skeptics for good.
The familiar chords strike immediately with the opener and single, ‘Blow Your Trumpets Gabriel.’ A sloth-paced song by the Polish outfit’s standards, there are hints throughout this song that will play out over the course of the album, such as horns and a bit more of a black metal presence than their has been over the last decade. The result is something that sounds like the missing link between 'Satanica' and 'Thelema.6.'
Faster cuts like the feral 'Furor Divinus,' the Hail Mary inverting ‘Amen,’ and ‘Ben Sahar’ are certainly the ones that will stick out to Behemoth fans on the first listen of this album. The latter boasts one of the best patented Behemoth style riffs across the band’s discography, though the rest don’t disappoint either.
Nergal really shakes things up with his writing by offering some more textured guitar playing that gives an ebb and flow to the album instead of the usual speeding freight train approach. The title track, ‘The Satanist,’ is decidedly more moody and even has a bit of a vocal hook, which is something new. The frontman’s barbaric barking is sharp as ever, most noticeably on the closing epic, ‘O Father O Satan O Sun!’ Choirs give way to Orion’s punchy bass and the mid-tempo march begins. The climactic nature of this song brings things to a perfect close, capping off the album.
Behemoth are a band who have felt comfortable in their own skin since releasing the groundbreaking ‘Demigod’ in 2004. While ‘The Apostasy’ and ‘Evangelion’ don’t slouch, there’s nothing unexpected going on musically. ‘The Satanist’ sees the band shed away that skin as they simultaneously get back to some of their blackened roots while exploring new areas with their most dynamic songwriting since ‘Satanica.’ Behemoth have not only released the most important album of their career, but one of their best as well.