Behemoth - The Satanist (2014)
Nuclear Blast (Europe)/Metal Blade (US)
Review by Trevor Proctor
The Satanist is Behemoth’s tenth album although it’s their first in five years - their ninth; Evangelion was released in 2009 to widespread critical acclaim and reached the number one chart spot in their home country of Poland – no mean feat for such a blasphemous act in a country with religious beliefs as strong as Poland.
Evangelion helped spread Behemoth’s popularity; subsequent tours and amazing live shows cemented their status and propelled them towards global domination, at this time the band seemed irrepressible. However as we all know disaster struck in August 2010 when Nergal (lead vocals and guitars) was diagnosed with leukaemia which according to initial reports seemed to be incurable – thankfully these reports proved to be untrue and after an extensive search for a suitable donor Nergal underwent a successful bone marrow transplant in late 2010.
He was discharged from hospital in Gdansk on Monday 16th January 2011 and began a lengthy rehabilitation process during which he was re-admitted to hospital due to an infection, six weeks after the initial bone marrow transplant. Once Nergal felt he had recovered Behemoth decided rather than enter the studio immediately they would play a number of live dates including seven across Poland. At the end of February 2013 Behemoth entered Hertz studio in Bialystok, Poland with Nergal stating "It looks like it might be the most important album in our career. I want to make the most honest record and I won't be bending to anyone's rules…”
The first taster of how the album would sound came when the first track, Blow Your Trumpets Gabriel was released as an EP on the 4th of December 2013 to much widespread praise; it also helped generate fever pitch expectation around the album and its confirmed release date of February 2014. We can literally say Nergal put his sweat and blood into the creation of this masterpiece - the painting on the cover is the work of artist and occultist, Denis Forkas whom Nergal had contacted via the artist’s website. Due to the fact Nergal had told Forkas the album is an extremely personal work the artist painted the whole circulatory system on the original painting using Nergal’s blood.
Blow Your Trumpets Gabriel gets the album off to a gloriously heavy start, there’s a passion, hunger and arrogance about Behemoth that screams at you that you’re about to hear something truly special. Every word, every tortured shout from Nergal seems come from somewhere deep within his very soul. Not only is this an excellent starter track it’s also a loud and clear mission statement; starting slowly it builds to an explosion of blackened anger in the grandest of fashions - the use of trumpets during the track merely adds to its grandiose atmosphere – a precursor to the brutal magnificence and musical ambition that’s to come.
Messe Noire is a standout track due to the progressive nature of the outstanding guitar solos, in fact moments of musical brilliance are peppered throughout the Satanist; cleverly tucked away amongst blackened slabs of heaviness to surprise and astound you at every twist and turn Behemoth brings you to - from the blackened brutality of tracks such as Furor Divinus and Amen to the blasphemous beauty of tracks such as In the Absence of Light.
O Father O Satan O Sun concludes the album in the most magnificent of fashions; at over seven minutes it’s by far the longest track on the album yet every last second is used productively in this monumental, rousing hymn to the horned one himself. O Father is another track that features expansive, progressive guitar solos and throughout shows the variety of sound Behemoth are capable of; it’s a spirit stirring track that’ll stick in your head for a long time to come – whether you have a love for the dark one or not.
Behemoth are living proof that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, Nergal’s relatively fast recovery and the very fact they were able to record an album at all is an accomplishment in itself before we even take into account just how good this album really is. No doubt there’ll be a few naysayers who dislike the album and the debate about old Behemoth vs new Behemoth will rage on but surely no one can dispute this is their most ambitious and musically adventurous album to date. I won’t be disrespectful to the plethora of quality artists due to release albums in 2014 by saying this is the album of the year but with “The Satanist” we most certainly have a contender and Behemoth have set an extremely high standard for others to follow.
1. 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!
The Satanist will be released via Nuclear Blast on the 3rd of February in the UK, Metal Blade on 4th February in North America and Poland, February 5th in Japan with Europe and the rest of the world having to wait until the 7th of February for their release.