“I saw the virgin’s cunt spawning forth the snake.” This is the opening line to The Satanist, the much anticipated new album from Polish blackened metal band Behemoth. To say that it sets the tone for the album is an understatement. It is the beginning of a vicious aural assault, one that is both aggressive and dynamic, something that is entirely not for the faint of heart.
It’s been a long five years since Evangelion, a delay that was at one point filled with uncertainty and fear due to frontman Nergal’s battle with leukemia. But the past is behind us and we can now eagerly look forward to a future with The Satanist.
I know I just stated that it is time to move beyond the past but it must be mentioned that I firmly believe Nergal’s battle with leukemia had a profound impact on the formation of this album. When faced with possible death, certain painful treatments, and a difficult recovery, I cannot imagine that these experiences didn’t have an impact on what I am hearing on The Satanist. The album is still incredibly heavy but it feels like it’s pulled back a little from previous offerings, allowing for the mood and dynamics to be the source of its intensity.
Opening with the band’s first single “Blow Your Trumpets Gabriel”, the album immediately takes a stand and lets the listener know that the band is back with a vengeance. Five years may dull some sheens, but not this one. If anything the band shines brighter than ever. But what is very important to note is that the dynamics that the listener will hear in later tracks are all hinted at in this one song. Horns that make their comeback in “In The Absence Ov Light”, heavy dynamics such as in “Amen”, and an epic approach that is mirrored and built upon in the final track “O Father O Satan O Sun!”, it’s all there. During the first listen it’s impossible to know that the album feels unbelievably complete and whole, with no filler whatsoever.
There is also some experimentation that occurs, some amazing dynamics that make The Satanist not only a metalhead’s dream but also incredibly exciting for a appreciator of music as a whole. While I mentioned that the album is incredibly complete, it does merit mentioning that the album feels like two chapters with the title track being the beginning of the second chapter. From that song forward the album judiciously heaps one surprise after another, including a heavier usage of Middle Eastern influences that the band is known for.
“Ben Sahar” has some surprising moments of beauty, countering the anger and what we have heard earlier. Then there is a very interesting passage during “In The Absence Ov Light” that features a mixture of acoustic guitars and a saxophone, which sounds like it belongs under a street light on a dark night, that creates a noir-esque atmosphere which is only compounded by the Polish voice over.
The album ends with “O Father O Satan O Sun!”, which almost feels like a huge symphonic metal presentation. After the previous tracks it feels enormous in scale, creating an epic climax that winds down and fades out at just the right moment.
The Final Word: The only word that comes to mind with The Satanist is “flawless”. There are albums that, upon release, are seen as career defining moments. Then there are the albums that define an entire genre, pushing boundaries that were previously thought to be immovable. Behemoth have raised the bar and released an album that is incredibly vicious yet highly accessible. I do not give this rating lightly but I truly feel The Satanist will reign as one of the strongest albums of this decade.