Even casting aside the miraculous recovery of frontman Adam ‘Nergal’ Darski from a heavily advanced strain of leukemia just two years prior to recording, ‘The Satanist’ represents what is a rather incredible statement of boundless creativity from Polish stalwarts, Behemoth. Heralding a life affirming resolve from a band who quite literally have looked death in the face, a backdrop as dramatic as Nergal‘s illness would see us assume a certain amount of renewed fire as ‘The Satanist’ threatened to be a direct result from a brush with the end.
Yet, the black hearted, all consuming malevolence imbued with this, Behemoth‘s tenth full-length release, is stand alone not only in its fearsome execution and dynamic exhibitionism, but an underlying current of malefic disquiet which sees it a record as powerful a extreme metal salutation as has been delivered for decades.
Although authoring some classic material previous to the turmoil of their recent years, ‘The Satanist’ is an altogether different beast. The title alone suggesting a declaration of inner strength and an all conquering fortitude, the songs brim with a vitality and creative scope we would most likely not have seen without such a compelling and severe context. Opener, ‘Blow Your Trumpets Gabriel’, is a slow burner of the most imperious degree, an almost hypnotic repetition leading to a some apocalyptic orchestration which is as magisterial as any symphonic heavyweights in the game. With an introduction as crushingly sinister, there could be no more a striking avowal of purpose.
Indeed, one aspect which stamps the record’s prestige is a certain dropping of pace, the likes of ‘Ben Sahar’ and the devastating title-track lessons in heaving muscularity and seeping malice, yet also injecting a swagger and bluster we would associate with the most cocksure of hard rock acts. This, married with the dissonance and haughty aggression established by the band, ensures we remain firmly in territory of flesh crawling enormity.
That being said, ‘The Satanist’ is ultimately defined by its thrilling diversity. The swirling maelstrom of blackened violence that is ‘Furor Divinus’ is a bloodstained slab of vintage Behemoth, ‘Messe Noir’ is an unsettling testament of blasphemous energy, and closer ‘O Father O Satan O Sun’ shifts seamlessly from lofty grandeur, flash fire blasts of high velocity abandon and a spoken word passage preached with supreme power and unholy sincerity, enthralling with its forthright intent. The album bulges with courtly wonder, its invocations of moral ferment not tempered in the slightest by the soaring announcement of operatic strains which in actuality enhance the stately darkness.
‘The Satanist’ is a triumph. Sating purists with the searing, white hot ferocity of offerings such as ‘Amen’, it’s within the moments of deliciously progressive pomp and the spades of glacial, pitch darkness which will see this a record talked of in extreme metal circles, and indeed beyond, for years to come. Expansive, noble, startling savage and untamed in ambition, the band stride with supreme confidence across a sonic landscape which is utterly gripping in its unpredictability, and alarming in its downright uncompromising scope.
Behemoth have set a benchmark which is nigh on impossible to be reached by any peer, and we leave ‘The Satanist’ musing on the thought that perhaps only after going to hell and back could a band turn in a record so invested in both a life embracing courage and a unhallowed, godless essence.
Written by Tony Bliss