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 of Light
9. O Father O Satan O Sun!
Running time: 44:17
Behemoth has being doing this along time. The band is recognized as one of the most important and influential extreme metal bands to come around for a while, and they're also one of the most acclaimed. Obviously, extreme, death and/or black metal, however you wish to label it, isn't for everyone. It's not everyone's cup of tea, understandably. But there is an audience out there, and many of that audience will flock to Behemoth. The Satanist is album number ten, and five years since previous record Evangelion marks the longest time take between albums released not least due to very serious, life-threatening health issues of vocalist Neral. Like most bands of these genres, there's been some confused and elderly gentlemen in suits claiming the band are supporters of Satan and murderers, and while album titles like The Satanist don't exactly help, the truth is the only deadly assault Nergal and co. wish to inflict is on their listeners' eardrums, and with The Satanist, those eardrums take a good pounding.
I guess the first thing you should know about this record is that the vocals are half in English and half in Polish, and I know that'll be a turn off for some people. But getting past that, The Satanist is an accomplished effort, if not the genre-defining juggernaut others have claimed it to be. The album does, however, come off like something of a greatest hits sets, as it takes elements from each of the various eras in the band's lengthy career and combines them into one powerful and engaging record. In recent years the band has experimented with various sounds to make songs stand out, and that continues here; there are intricate horn sections sprinkled throughout, a choir in the album-closer and all-in-all a much more polished production. You also have some elements of thrash and speed metal that the band began utilizing around the turn of the century, as well as the classic black lyricism for which they were most well know when they began their career.
Unfortunately with a genre such as this, too much production can be a bad thing. The Satanist is so well produced the listener is able to hear every nuance of every instrument. Everything sounds incredibly theatrical and there's a good balance between ambience and aggression, but ironically enough with such defined sounds comes a lack of edge and it's arguable that the bad doesn't sound quite as gritty and visceral as they did two decades ago. The production does create these vast, damning soundscapes that tower over the record throughout and make for wave after wave of unrelenting assault. It's like watching a really big budget horror film that looks spectacular, but you know it's not real when actually a film with less effects would draw you in more. Think the 2013 Evil Dead against the original, still a phenomenal viewing experience, but not as essential as the original. The best example of this is the lengthy spoken word spiel on album-closer “O Father O Satan O Sun!” It seems to be aiming for epic but actually comes a little over the top and even a little camp.
Despite it's flaws, there's no denying there's some belting tracks here. The slow-burn heavyweight opener “Blow Your Trumpets Gabriel” is a first-class example of why the drum work of Inferno has been held in such high regard for so many years. It's a thumping opener and really sets the tone for the rest of the record. “Messe Noire” is reminiscent of early Sepultura, and looks to pull off this imposing ritualistic sound and it works pretty well, and it's definitely an attention grabber with its frantic pace. It's also a prime example of how Behemoth have become more and more melodic over the years, as is title track “The Satanist”. “In the Absence ov Light” features another spoken word segment that is much more traditional and powerful, and also shows how Nergal has expanded his writing style by incorporating more textured and layered guitar tracks.
Nergal's battle with leukaemia since 2010 has been well documented and it's clearly had an effect on his song-writing for The Satanist. Considering many thought the band was done as a result of his condition, it's miraculous that this album has even been released, let alone that it features some of the band's best work in a decade. But in experiment wit the band's sound once again, the waters have been muddied. The Satanist sees Behemoth moving forward with a more experimental and melodic sound in place, whilst simultaneously taking a step back by returning to its blackened roots. The effects are jarring, and the album all-in-all plays out somewhat inconsistently, lacking a cohesive narrative and lacking a defined sense of purpose. Musically there's obviously a lot of skill on show here, but we're left feeling somewhat underwhelmed by this split personality record.
Behemoth - “Blow Your Trumpets Gabriel”
The 411: The Satanist is Behemoth's tenth full length album in 23 years and it's also their most accessible no doubt in part to the fact that it's the band's best produced album as well. Where The Satanist excels in these melancholy and anarchaic ensembles, it fails by attempting to push the envelope a little too far on occasion. Long-time fans of the band will be pleased by the attempts to return to the band's original black metal sound of the early-nineties while maddened by how catchy the record is at times. Newer fans of the band will likely lap it up because it's a fine piece of work when it comes to showcasing what the genre can be and the goals it can reach. Anyone who catches the band on their current tour will firstly see that they're an incredible live act, and secondly that they now fit in with the theatrics and overzealousness of Cradle of Filth, with whom the band is currently touring. Considering the health issues of the vocalist in recent years, it's fair to see The Satanist is Behemoth's most important record and crucially, the band has proven it's still a force to be reckoned with even if they don't quite know how they want to fight this war.