The Satanist

By anyone’s standards, Behemoth are an extraordinarily extreme proposition. 2009’s astounding Evangelion paired wall-of-sound sonics with equally direct lyrical themes of anti-religious rebellion – a distinctly ironic take on a title that actually means "spreading the word of God" in Greek. It was a unique piece of expression, and despite Behemoth’s uncompromising stance and, in the grand scheme of things, distinctly non-commercial sound, there seemed to be a new level of sheen to the band developing – an intangible aspect that facilitated a level of access to the mainstream that other similar bands simply could not replicate.

The intangible? Adam ‘Nergal’ Darski. Even prior to being struck down by life-threatening leukemia in 2010, it always seemed that Darski possessed a unique awareness of where he and his band fitted into the overall picture of popular culture. He’s clearly an intelligent man with a sense of humour – considered, informative interviews will quickly tell you that. Not just that though, he’s also acutely tuned in to the business side of his work, as tactically released, slow-disclosure trailers for the new album will confirm. But it’s his attitude to his art and –more significantly perhaps –barriers which stand in the way of it, that is without doubt the reason that The Satanist is one of the most anticipated metal records of recent years.

Without a hint of self-pity, Darski dismissed his illness as if it were nothing other than a personal challenge – something to be overcome. The result is that The Satanist sounds like the creation of somebody who has peered into the abyss, thought "Hell no! I’ve got a lot more to do…" and crafted the best music his band have ever produced.

Immediately obvious is The Satanist‘s radically different sound. Where Evangelion was dense and suffocating, lead-track ‘Blow Your Trumpets Gabriel’ is layered, spacious and almost a relief, with every instrument –particularly the bass – breathing and crystal clear. Much like an artist creating perspective in a painting, there’s a sensation of depth in The Satanist‘s mix that serves to gives the music even more impact. In fact, the entire album has a relaxed feel that’s distinctly at odds with the enduringly extreme subject matter. The laid-back punk rock-sounding ‘Ora Pro Nobis Lucifer’ is case in point and nothing like anything Behemoth have done previously. Other highlights on a record with no weaknesses are the title track, ‘In The Absence ov Light’, the incredible ‘Ben Sahar’ and the epic ‘O Father O Satan O Sun!’

The Satanist, while still a very extreme metal record, will undoubtedly move Behemoth even closer to the mainstream. One feels that’s not intentional either. After all, Nergal’s artistic decisions are never driven by anything other than his own needs. It’s simply the current record in the band’s evolution – a process that’s best viewed without comparison to anything that’s gone before. Simply put: this is the artistic culmination of the last five years in the world of Adam ‘Nergal’ Darski and with integrity and quality like this, in combination with his uncanny ability to position his band on solely his terms, it’s a match made in heaven. Or hell.

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