It's undoubtedly been a difficult road leading to the creation of 'The Satanist', the tenth album from Polish Metal maestros Behemoth.
Something that has only helped to make this the exceptional album that it is, Nergal's battle and triumph over leukemia, has undoubtedly impacted on its conception.
I couldn't get my head around it on the first listen. It took three or four to fully appreciate the depth of content and to try and get an understanding of just what the album is about as the lyrical content is very much open to interpretation. It also had, initially, the difficult job of following after their two most recent, excellent albums, which were also of exceptional quality, 2007s 'The Apostasy' and 'Evangelion' in 2009.
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'The Satanist' is instantly recognizable as the blackened death quartet's work; it's a strong and positive offering, the sound is slightly less heavy in places than previous albums but there is a richer and more intense mood.
It's densely layered and often darkly sinister with an even greater use of Middle Eastern influences than on its predecessors and after a career that has so far spanned twenty three years, this release marks the beginning of a new and strong chapter for Behemoth.
An impact is made from the opening moments of first track 'Blow Your Trumpets Gabriel' (originally released as a single and album teaser in December 2013) densely furnished with plodding grandeur, opening out to become a mid-paced beast of a track. There is a good mix across the tracks from the perspective of pace so the whole album keeps your interest.
'Furor Divinus' has a faster tempo that's very blackened and intense and there's a fury to Nergal's vocals. Across the whole release his voice has a greater clarity than previously, there is less vocal layering, relying on the sheer power of his voice and there also is good use but not overuse of chants and spoken elements.
'Messe Noire' is a blackened symphony of blasphemy with an excellent guitar segment towards the finish but my favourite track is 'Ora Pro Nobis Lucifer'. I love every aspect, the pace of the track, the drum patterns, black Metal riffs and on top of all that, the vocals are brutally engaging and exciting.
'Amen' is an intense blackened onslaught of drums and guitars. The title track 'The Satanist' is another stand out track for me, not just for how good it sounds but how different it sounds, having a different feel from the others completely, as it opens, there's a wonderfully ominous, hollow vastness to the sound, all the aspects are very pronounced and large, with a great guitar segment after the midpoint and the whole atmosphere is dark sinister and haunting.
'Ben Sahar' is sinister, blackened and awash with Eastern influences and Nergal's phrasing and vocal emphasis is powerful and dynamic. 'In The Absence Ov Light' is to the greater part intense but with a reflective and powerful spoken element in the first half while 'O Father O Satan O Sun!' is a massively atmospheric and powerful album ender.
What also helps to make this such a great album is the great production, no surprises that the band were heavily involved in this aspect. I have always had a huge amount of admiration for all the work of Behemoth, and even more so after hearing this album. It's excellent and Nergal sums it up perfectly with his statement about the album: "'The Satanist' is magic. It's dangerous. It's adventurous, and it's organic!"