How do you follow an album like The Satanist, a masterpiece of extreme metal and one of the defining albums of the 21st century? That was the task faced by Behemoth as they started work on their 13th record, I Loved You At Your Darkest. Main man Nergal has admitted the task was daunting even for someone as experienced and proven as he. So much so that in the intervening years he stepped away from the band for a brief time to concentrate on his dark, country-tinged side project Me and That Man. Whether the break did him good or he was always more capable of pulling off another great album than he suspected is up to him to decide. For the rest of us we can just sit back in awe and be glad that we exist at the same time as a band as good as Behemoth.
And, despite Nergal being the focal point, this album is a true band effort. Listen to the drums steal the show on ‘Angelvs XIII’ or the bowel-shaking bass and almost choral singing on ‘Sabbath Mater’ this is truly a band at the top of its game.
Nergal seems to have borrowed a few tricks from his side project too; a children’s choir here, a clean guitar sound there, which serve to enhance the power of the songs rather than diminish it in any way, it allows them in fact to build to incredible moments like the crashing crescendo to ‘Ecclessia Diabolica Catholica’. And while Nergal’s trademark bark is all present and correct the words seem clearer and more precise than before. You’d hesitate to call it catchy exactly but each song burrows itself into your skull. There are hooks, cinematic orchestral sections, chinks of light through the oppressive dark. And, frankly, if the whole crowd isn’t shouting along to “The Emperor of Rome” section in ‘We Are The Next 1000 Years’ then I’ll eat the pope’s hat.
What Behemoth do better than 99% of extreme bands is craft songs. Not for the wall of distorted guitars and incomprehensible screams, nor the vast soundscapes that threatens to turn black metal into background music with blast beats. No, Behemoth create unique, individual tracks and then blend them seamlessly into a textured, layered, glorious whole.
So the question remains, is I Loved You At Your Darkest, better than The Satanist? It’s impossible to say. It perhaps doesn’t quite match its predecessor for sheer awe-inspiring power, but it probably has the more nuanced and memorable songs. It will all come down to personal preference really, and I’m sure there will be some in the metal community who will vehemently argue the case for one over the other. But for the rest of us we can just rejoice in the fact that once again Behemoth have delivered a truly breath taking slab of metal, for any other band this would be hailed as a masterpiece, for Behemoth it seems it’s just what they do. They’re still as heavy, still as complex and, yes, they’re still as dark as ever, and if you loved them before, you’ll still love them now. Their legacy remains intact.
Wolves Ov Siberia
God = Dog
Ecclesia Diabolica Catholica
If Crucifixtion Was Not Enough
Rom 5 8
We Are the Next 1000 Years
Nergal – Vocals & Guitar
Orion – Bass & Vocals
Inferno – Drums & Percussion
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