Album review: BEHEMOTH – The Satanist

Nuclear Blast – Out Now.

Some artists are so unbelievably driven that even what seem to be insurmountable problems cannot stop them from achieving their goals. Nergal, founding member and leader of the Polish extreme Metal quartet Behemoth, is the perfect example of a man belonging in this category.

Having been diagnosed with leukaemia back in 2010, the outspoken Pole undertook a lengthy and painful treatment that would have broken the best of men, followed by an equally long rehabilitation period which deprived him from fully enjoying the success achieved by the amazing “Evangelion” – released a year or so earlier.

The fact alone that we are now able to talk about a new Behemoth album is a miracle in itself but what will definitely please the fans of extreme Metal in that “The Satanist” is not only a new addition to Behemoth’s musical arsenal, but is also an album that finds the band in a position to reclaim the throne of blackened Death Metal – one left vacant when Nergal had to focus on fighting his illness.

Just as with “Evangelion”, Behemoth’s tenth studio album finds the band investing once again in colossal riffs, clever orchestral arrangements and eerie atmospheric passages. This time, however, a much better balance seems to have been struck as the nine compositions on offer, though intricate and cleverly crafted, come across as less ‘busy’ and far more organic.

Nergal’s vocals, those chesty explosions of hate and spite that we all know and love, are at their commanding best and when they are not supported by blistering drum beats and blackened riffs, they become further enhanced by an array of keyboard/orchestral arrangements. Sounds really good, right? Trust me, it is impressive.

It seems fitting to have opened the album with a song like “Blow Your Trumpets Gabriel” as it proves without a doubt that the Behemoth of 2014 is a band clearly at the top of its game. Massive, riffs, commanding guttural vocals, epic/dark wind instrument-driven orchestral arrangements, a very memorable refrain …this song has it all.

“Furor Divinus” is a technically endowed composition but more relentless in pace and old school in feel than its predecessor, while the dark keyboard themes of “Messe Noire” will most certainly appeal to fans of bands like Septicflesh.

Filled with Bathory-influenced led guitar harmonies, “Ora Pro Nobis Lucifer” is a real head banger, whereas the furious pace of the three and a half minute “Amen” will bring a smile to the face of fans of albums like “Grom” (1996) and “Pandemonic Incantations” (1998).

Two songs which clearly showcase the band’s compositional maturity are the atmospheric same-titled opus “The Satanist” and the saxophone infused “In The Absence Ov Light”, the latter featuring an inspiring narration in Nergal’s native language during its atmospheric break.

Sandwiched between them, “Ben Sahar” adds more epic arrangements and Bathory style riffs to the picture, while the closing track “O Father O Satan O Sun!” finds  Behemoth indulging further in pompous orchestral arrangements, choral male chants and skull crushing riffs – all of which help conclude the album in a truly victorious fashion.

When news of Nergal’s successful operation first started spreading throughout the music community most of us felt, or better yet – hoped, that it would not be long before Nergal would return to us with a new quality album and, my friends, I am happy to say that the time we were all waiting for has finally come.

Rather than being a half-baked album whose purpose would simply be to keep the band’s coffers full and its name in the spotlight, “The Satanist” is a wonderful collection of songs which ought to make its creators full of pride and which deserves a prominent position in the band’s musical collection. You simply cannot keep a good man down!

John Stefanis

Rating: ****1/2 (4.5/5.0)

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